D.C. Circuit: TSA Charged with “Safety and Security,” Not Just Security; Mask Mandate Petition Denied

There is no dispute that the Transportation Security Administration was created by Congress after the 9/11 attacks in order to prevent future acts of air terrorism. The Aviation & Transportation Security Act of 2002 (“ATSA”), TSA’s enabling statute, makes clear that it was created to address “security in all modes of transportation.” 49 U.S.C. § 114(d). Virtually every section of ATSA discusses issues such as passenger screening, cargo screening, sterile areas, and the like.

TSA is not a public health agency, nor do they have general police powers, so when they issued a mask mandate for basically the entirety of the nation’s transportation system, I sued. My challenge has nothing to do with whether masks work or what coronavirus policy should be: it solely raised the issue of whether TSA should be allowed to create those policies.

Today, unfortunately the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit disagreed. In a 2-1 decision (linked below), the court held that TSA was created to deal with “safety and security” and denied my petition. The court held that “Corbett plainly has standing to pursue his claims in this case,” a point which the government disputed in an argument that “borders on frivolous,” which was a small victory for anyone challenging TSA policies in the future. But the court then continued to conclude that Congress used “capacious terms” in ATSA in order to give TSA “broad authority.” Respectfully, I disagree that when Congress says “security” they really meant “safety and security,” I am disappointed with the ruling, and I will consider my options from here.

The dissenting opinion, penned by U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Henderson unfortunately “dissented” to personally attack me for a “waste of judicial resources” because it found the gripes within my petition to amount to mere “trifles” and that my alleged injury was insufficient to demonstrate standing. With all due respect, two federal judges just agreed that I demonstrated standing, so clearly raising that issue was not an indefensible claim. I consoled myself after reading her harsh words with the knowledge that Judge Henderson also wrote that illegal aliens are not “persons” under the Fifth Amendment in 2017 (seriously), that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply in D.C. (also seriously), and recently sided with controversial Trump appointee Neomi Rao to force a lower court to dismiss the case against retired U.S. General Michael Flynn, who lied to investigators about being an unregistered agent of a foreign country, in a ruling that was aptly described as “astonishingly bad.”

Coronavirus litigation is hard. It is few courts that have had the courage to draw a line in the sand — anywhere in the sand — and attorneys who fight that fight certainly do not deserve to be talked down to by federal judges. We can all disagree on exactly how coronavirus policy should be shaped and by whom, and indeed we are doing a disservice if we are not testing these society-altering policies in the courtroom. I’ll try not to be too discouraged, and I hope my readers will not be either.

Corbett v. TSA – Petition Denied (.pdf)

10 thoughts on “D.C. Circuit: TSA Charged with “Safety and Security,” Not Just Security; Mask Mandate Petition Denied

Add yours

  1. There was a time when Power was gained, obtained, achieved, or bestowed on those who proved to be wise and knowledgeable. Today, power is obtained as the result of connections, affiliations, arrangements, collusion, and the exchange of values and goods in the form of money.
    The complete social meltdown we live in today, is partially the result of unwise, uneducated, and irresponsible actions taken by those who obtained power without the necessary requisites mentioned in the first paragraph.
    Unwise decision lead to and contribute to unwise actions, rules, regulations and eventually unwise laws which go against common-sense.
    Keep fighting the good fight.

  2. As Benjamin Franklin has said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”.

  3. Oh, please. “Frivolous” is right. All this bïtching over having to wear a little piece of cloth over one’s face.

    If the analogue to so many Covidiots had been around in the 1940s, we’d all be speaking German and Japanese today.

    1. Lisa,

      As clearly indicated, the issue is not the concept of a mask policy. The issue is that of TSA being the one to create and enforce it. You of all people should understand why this is important.


  4. Horrible decision by the D.C. Circuit. Absoluely terrible reasoning that Congress gave TSA power to become the Transportation Health & Disease Control Administration. Especially awful for the disabled who are being excluded from all forms of public transportation because we can’t wear masks.

Leave a Reply to Lisa Simeone Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: