The Year in Review: 28 U.S.C. (Section) 1581(a) Decisions in 2007 by the CIT and Others
Sandler, Gilbert Lee, Frohman, Morgan L., Georgetown Journal of International Law
The United States Court of International Trade ("CIT") is the only court of its kind in the federal judicial system. Like other Article III courts, it is endowed with all of the powers of the United States federal district courts. However unlike the other federal district courts, it has specific, limited, and exclusive jurisdiction to hear certain categories of international trade and customs disputes arising out of the customs and trade laws of the United States. The technical and policy issues arising under United States international trade laws often can only be litigated in the CIT. Similarly, appeals of the CIT decisions are lodged with another one-of-kind federal court with exclusive, nationwide jurisdiction: the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ("CAFC" or "Federal Circuit").
In this commentary, we analyze the substantive, procedural, and jurisdictional issues decided by the CIT in 2007 (and appellate court decisions issued on those cases prior to the writing of this article) in cases arising under the CIT's exclusive jurisdiction as set forth in 28 U.S.C. [section] 1581 (a). (1) Section 1581 (a) grants the court jurisdiction to hear actions brought against the United States to challenge United States Customs and Border Protection ("CBP" or "Customs") decisions to deny administrative protests filed under 19 U.S.C. [section] 1515. (2) A protest contests certain actions by CBP that fall into seven defined categories of decisionmaking affecting imported merchandise. These categories include the appraised value, tariff classification, rate and amount of duty, the assessment of all charges and exactions within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Treasury, the liquidation or reliquidation of an entry, the exclusion of merchandise from entry, and the refusal to pay drawback claims. Upon denial of a protest by a CBP officer, an importer (or other party permitted under the Customs regulations) (3) has 180 days to commence an action in the CIT challenging the denial by CBP. (4) To successfully commence an action, the prospective plaintiff must exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing a summons, which requires filing a timely protest, receiving notification that the protest was denied or deemed denied by operation of law, and paying all Customs' duties, taxes and fees assessed upon liquidation of the entry.
II. 2007 CIT DECISIONS IN PERSPECTIVE
This article will analyze the substantive decisions by the Court, but it is also instructive to measure the practical concerns of practitioners and litigants about the nature of the court's handling of cases. Is the court's workload primarily in its traditional jurisdictional area of deciding challenges to Customs protest decisions ("[section] 1581 (a) jurisdiction") or are its decisions likely to be reversed on appeal or rehearing? The dominant work of the court in 2007 was not in cases arising under its [section] 1581 (a) jurisdiction. The CIT issued 189 slip opinions in that year, but only twenty-nine of those involved cases falling under the court's [section] 1581(a) jurisdiction. The predominant category of administrative protest decisions challenged in those 29 opinions was the tariff rate classification: seventeen opinions (both dispositive and non-dispositive) involved the classification of imported merchandise. In addition to the classification opinions, the CIT issued [section] 1581 (a) jurisdiction decisions in 2007 on a variety of issues including drawback of import duties, the costs of repairs subject to duty on imported merchandise, applications for attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") and the impact of non-compliance with customs regulations on the court's jurisdiction.
Issues of importance decided by the court often transcend the classification, appraisement, drawback, or other issue raised by the protestant. …