This is a tense and frustrating period for the Purple Line. We have high hopes for the appeal of Judge Leon’s illogical decision, but any judicial debates amongst the D.C. Circuit Court judges will appropriately be secret until a decision is announced. Nonetheless, for advocates, there are issues to watch that will help us understand and explain to friends and neighbors what is happening, and by so doing, to keep hope for this needed project alive.
Will the Appeals Court Place a Stay on Judge Leon’s Injunction?
As the Washington Post opined, Judge Leon’s ruling against the Purple Line is “shot through with illogic and heedless of precedent” and “is an excellent candidate for reversal on appeal.” Specifically, as reported in Bethesda Magazine, the court violated the Supreme Court’s warning against substituting a judge’s personal opinion for that of federal experts. Maryland has asked the appellate court to place a stay on Judge Leon’s ruling and reinstate the project’s environmental approval. This would not be the final decision on the appeal, but would allow Maryland to pursue the full funding grant agreement it was on the verge of receiving from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) before the district court’s intervention.
Will the Schedule for the Appeal be Expedited?
The stay is important, because Maryland laid out challenges to paying for the Purple Line without planned federal aid, challenges that may come to a head in August. That said, a stay would be a temporary measure during the pendency of the appeal. Maryland has proposed an expedited schedule for the appeal, with briefs due from the parties between July 20th to August 24th, and possible oral arguments shortly thereafter. The next news on the case may be whether the court accepts this schedule or lays out a longer timeline.
Will the money be there?
The Trump Administration, in direct violation of infrastructure pledges during the campaign, had sought massive cuts in federal transit spending. They folded on that effort for the current fiscal year, and the omnibus compromise included specific set asides for the Purple Line, which now has $325 million in funds appropriated for it. However, this will be an ongoing fight as the latest bill out of the House would again reduce funding for new transit projects in the next fiscal year. We’ll need our Congressional delegation to continue to persevere to make sure that funding is included in the final budget.
Purple Line NOW is staying abreast of all of these decisions and will bring you breaking news as it occurs. The best way to get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep a keen eye on our website for all breaking news. We need your financial support now more than ever as we work hard to keep the project front and center in the eyes of our elected officials, the community at large, and all who have a stake in the success of the project. Please consider a donation to Purple Line NOW to help us continue that work. Thank you!
During Thursday's oral hearing on the Purple Line, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon repeatedly made clear that his main objection to the project was the cost to federal taxpayers. Purple Line NOW Vice President Greg Sanders attended the hearing and reacted, “Judge Leon’s actions are the definition of legislating from the bench. The Federal Transit Administration has determined that the fundamentals for the Purple Line are so good that it would be worth building, even in the theoretical extreme of no transfers from Metrorail. The legislative branch has also weighed in - Congress has appropriated $325 million dollars towards the eventual construction. Judge Leon seeks to substitute his judgment for those of transit experts, as well as elected officials from both the federal government and the state of Maryland, despite the fact that this is expressly forbidden by the National Environmental Policy Act.”
Purple Line NOW condemns Judge Leon’s renewed attempts to shut down the Purple Line by delaying a fair hearing for the project. Albert Ferlo, an attorney for the state of Maryland, pointed out that typically when judges are asked to place a hold on their own decision, they summarily deny the hold rather than draw the process out.
Purple Line NOW President Ralph Bennett remarked, “Judge Leon has obviously made up his mind about the Purple Line. This oral hearing and his threat of taking days or weeks to issue a decision, are a return to stalling tactics apparently intended to kill the project.”
Purple Line NOW Treasurer Tina Slater was agog at hearing the Judge Leon's logic, “If the stakes weren’t so high, it would be a joke worthy of Kafka. Judge Leon is using the National Environmental Protection Act to enforce his political view that we’re spending too much on transit. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know what his stalling tactics will do to the attempt to get the stay, but I do know that the case for overturning his blatant disregard of precedent just got stronger." Slater continued, "Judge Leon may not care about our communities stuck in traffic and lacking a desperately needed east-west option to get to school or jobs, but we intend to keep fighting to connect our communities, which, incidentally, would bring in much more money in economic growth and new revenue than it costs to build the project.”
Purple Line NOW vows to continue its mission of speaking up for the many and diverse communities that would benefit from the Purple Line and educating the public as the fight moves to the appeals court.
Purple Line NOW was in attendance at the hearing and will continue to actively monitor the appeals process. We will send regular updates to you and ask that you follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep a keen eye on our website for all breaking news. As always, we run on a bare-bones budget and volunteer elbow-grease from board members and community volunteers alike. Join us, and if you can, consider a donation to Purple Line NOW. We appreciate you more than you know.
Purple Line NOW
Purple Line NOW is disappointed that it was necessary to take this step and hopes that it can be reversed after quick action by the court. This move emphasizes the importance of the appeal filed yesterday by Maryland’s Attorney General. We hope that the courts can act quickly to restore the record of decision and put a swift end to these emergency steps. The fact that this action had to be taken demonstrates the continuing cost of the lawsuit.
Purple Line NOW applauds U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon’s ruling today dismissing the plaintiffs’ environmental claims in the lawsuit against the Purple Line. In ruling against these claims and issuing a final judgment in the case, the court cleared the way for the MTA and FTA to appeal his earlier ruling ordering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The appeal now offers a clear path forward and we ask that the state continue funding the Purple Line throughout this process to avoid a costly slow-down.