Developments in Cases Arising under 28 U.S.C. (Section) 1581(a) during 2009

Article excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS

   I. INTRODUCTION
  II. CUSTOMS LAW BACKGROUND
 III. JURISDICTION
      A. Timely Protests
      B. Decision
      C. Denied Protest
      D. Imported Merchandise and Subject Matter
  IV. CIT PROCEDURES
      A. Millenium Lumber Distribution Ltd. v. United States
      B. ENI Technology Inc. v. United States
      C. Kahrs International, Inc. v. United States
 V. STATUTORY INTERPRETATION
      A. Mazak Corp. v. United States
      B. Kahrs International, Inc. v. United States
      C. Peerless Clothing International, Inc. v. United States
      D. International Custom Products, Inc. v. United States
      E. Drawback Procedures
         1. When Customs is Culpable for Untimely Filings.
         2. When a Drawback Entry is Complete
  VI. HTSUS INTERPRETATIONS
 VII. SKIDMORF DEFERENCE
VIII. APPRAISEMENT
IX. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

This commentary reviews notable cases decided during 2009 that arose under [section] 201 of the Customs Courts Act of 1980, codified at 28 U.S.C. [section] 1581(a) ("[section] 1581(a)"). (1) This provision grants the United States Court of International Trade ("CIT"), "exclusive jurisdiction of any civil action commenced to contest the denial of a protest, in whole or in part, under section 515 of the Tariff Act of 1930." These cases involve the CIT's judicial review of the denial of protests by the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("Customs") regarding final decisions by Customs affecting how much importers pay in duties, fees, and exactions, in a given import transaction. (2) This commentary reviews cases decided by both the CIT and its appellate court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ("Federal Circuit").

Cases that arise under [section] 1581 (a) often lead to fact-intensive, tariff heading-specific, and merchandise-specific opinions that provide little guidance in cases involving other merchandise. This commentary, rather than repeating each case's facts, attempts to mine the 2009 cases for valuable indications of how the CIT and the Federal Circuit will resolve legal questions in the future. As such, not every case arising under this part of the court's jurisdiction was included. Rather, each case discussed answered some question that is likely to arise in other contexts.

This commentary proceeds in seven parts. It begins by explaining the legal infrastructure of customs law and how the CIT analyzes these cases. It then focuses on decisions resolving jurisdictional questions.

Next, it explores several cases that required interpretation of the court's rules of procedure. The following section discusses how the court construed statutory and regulatory provisions. After that, the next section discusses methods employed by the court to interpret the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS"). The seventh section includes cases discussing the court's deference to Customs' decisions. The final section focuses on how the CIT decided its sole appraisement case.

II. CUSTOMS LAW BACKGROUND

This section provides a brief overview of how the import process goes from the port, to the CIT, all the way to the Federal Circuit.

When imported merchandise reaches a port of the United States, the importer of record must file paperwork declaring the merchandise's customs classification under the HTSUS, its duty rate, its value, and, in some cases, its country of origin. (3) This is known as entry of merchandise. The importer also has to provide a cash deposit to Customs to secure payment of all fees and charges due. (4)

Within six months of entry, Customs then finalizes the amount owed and potentially reviews any of the importer's declarations. This is known as liquidation of an entry. If Customs fails to act within six months, then the entry is "deemed liquidated" and the importer can be forced to pay no more than the cash deposit. …