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14 Catt. 1: In re Amtrak Café Car

2012 November 7
by CATTLEYA, J.

CATTLEYA, J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. JEREMY, C.J., issued a separate concurrence, concurring in the result.

Amtrak Northeast Regional trains run between Boston, Massachusetts and Newport News, Virginia. The Northeast Regional passes through cities like New York, Philadelphia, and DC. On the Northeast Regional is a Café Car which sells food items like baked goods, sandwiches, salads, and pizza. The question before us is whether the Café Car is within the Cart’s jurisdiction and may be reviewed.

Amtrak Northeast Regional

I. Jurisdictional test

The Judiciary Act of 2011 (Cartiorari Act) states that “the Supreme Cart shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all food carts, trucks, and other transitory alimentary establishments within those portions of the District of Columbia or the part thereof retroceded to the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Our Rule of Procedure 1-2 provides that “[t]he jurisdiction of the Cart shall extend to all mobile gastronomic enterprises situated throughout those parts of (a) the County of Arlington, Virginia, (b) the District of Columbia, and (c) the City of Alexandria, Virginia, which are reasonably proximate to public transportation of a reasonably rapid and efficient character.”

Our jurisdictional test contains three elements. First, the establishment under consideration must be located in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria. Second, it must be a mobile gastronomic enterprise. Third, it must be reasonably proximate to public transportation of a reasonably rapid and efficient character.

I consider the first and second elements below. Because the Café Car fails both elements, I decline to address the third element for the sake of judicial economy.

II. Located in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria

To be within the Cart’s jurisdiction, the Northeast Regional Café Car must be located in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria. Although the Café Car passes through DC, it leaves and travels to other cities. It goes to Newport News, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, Boston, and other cities in the Northeast. Based on my understanding of the world map, Newport News, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, and Boston are not in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria. Because the Café Car leaves the Cart’s geographic jurisdiction, the Café Car is not in our jurisdiction.

The Chief Justice’s understanding of the world map is very different. His understanding is that all cities around the world are in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria. He claims that because the “tectonic plates are in constant flux,” every city “has occupied or will someday occupy a place in the Universe which was once or will someday be somewhere within the combined boundaries of Arlington, Alexandria, and the District of Columbia.” In re Brennan’s, 1 Jer. 1 (2012) (a self-published opinion by the Chief Justice that is not recognized by the Supreme Cart). The Chief Justice makes a mockery of our law by ignoring its plain meaning. Newport News, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, and Boston are not—and never will be—in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria. But, assuming arguendo, that the Chief Justice’s loony reasoning is correct and the Café Car were in the Cart’s geographic jurisdiction, the Café Car still would not be within our jurisdiction because it is not a mobile gastronomic enterprise.

III. Mobile gastronomic enterprise

Cafe Car Menu

We first interpreted the phrase “mobile gastronomic enterprise” in In re China Garden, 5 Catt. 1 (2012). We denied jurisdiction to a dim sum cart within a Chinese restaurant because the enterprise itself had to be mobile, not just its gastronomy. Because the dim sum was mobile and the restaurant was not, we did not have jurisdiction over China Garden.

We again took up the phrase in In re Maine Avenue Fish Market, 11 Catt. 3 (2012). Here, the barges along the pier of a fish market were not within our jurisdiction. Even though the barges were capable of moving, they were permanently affixed to the pier and so the enterprises (i.e., the barges) were effectively “immobile.”

In summary, we know from our case law that the enterprise, not the gastronomy, must be mobile. We also know that the enterprise must actually be mobile, and not just capable of being mobile. The question then is, is the Café Car a mobile gastronomic enterprise?

In the present case, both the enterprise (i.e., Amtrak) and the gastronomy (i.e., the Café Car offerings) are mobile. Furthermore, Amtrak’s Northeast Regional is not merely capable of moving; it actually moves. The Café Car meets the requirements of “mobile” as set forth by China Garden and Maine Avenue Fish Market. However, the Café Car is not a mobile gastronomic enterprise.

All of the food trucks and carts that the Cart has thus far adjudicated brought food to the customer. The food trucks and carts traveled to customers at Metro Center, drove over to customers at GWU, went to see customers at Rosslyn, and so on. After having the food brought to them, the customers parted ways with the food trucks and carts. The customers never moved with the food trucks and carts. Thus, “mobile” in “mobile gastronomic enterprise” must mean that the gastronomy comes to the customer, not that the customer travels with the enterprise.

Applying this aspect of “mobile” to the present case, it is clear that the Café Car is not mobile. The Café Car is not rendered “mobile” just because it moves with food and customers on board. The Café Car must bring gastronomy to the customer. However, the Café Car does not do this. It does not bring its food to customers at Metro Center, Farragut Square, Union Station, Franklin Park, Navy Yard, L’Enfant, Cap South, GWU, Rosslyn, Courthouse, Ballston, Crystal City, or another location. Quite the opposite, customers must bring themselves to Union Station, to Amtrak’s gates, and to the Café Car.

IV. Conclusion

Because the Café Car does not bring food to the customer, it is not a mobile gastronomic enterprise and is outside this Cart’s jurisdiction.

DISMISSED.

JEREMY, C.J., concurring in the result.

I agree with my sister that the Northeast Regional Café Car is not within our jurisdiction though I depart severely from her characteristically unsound reasoning.

My sister correctly represents that our jurisdictional test contains three elements. First, the establishment under consideration must be located in the District of Columbia, or in the Urban County of Arlington or the Independent City of Alexandria in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Second, it must be a “mobile gastronomic enterprise.” Third, it must be reasonably proximate to public transportation of a reasonably rapid and efficient character. My sister finds that the Café Car fails to satisfy both the first and second elements of this test and, in so finding, refuses to reach the third element.

I, like my sister, would also find that the Café Car fails to satisfy the second element of our jurisdictional test, though on different grounds. In so finding, I, like my sister, need not reach the third element. But, given my sister’s unsound and unsupported interpretation of the first element, I find I must first address that element. In that regard, I need simply say that my cogent and well-reasoned decision in Brennan’s, 1 Jer. 1 (2012), should clearly establish, at the very least, that the Café Car falls within the geographical jurisdiction of this Cart.

Let me now register how I am disturbed at my sister’s apparent willingness to cast aside such recent precedent, but I cannot say I am surprised at her lack of respect for the nobility of stare decisis. Sometimes, my sister, it is more important that the law be established than that it satisfy every neuron of your intellect. A court that does not abide its precedent in the absence of any compelling reason to abandon such precedent can serve no other purpose than to undermine democracy and the general welfare. It is shameful, and it is wrong, but, in order to better preserve the People’s confidence in the machinations of this Supreme Cart, I will put our bickering aside and, for a time, agree to abide by my sister’s curbed and frankly nonsensical interpretation of our geographic element. I advise those who now find themselves outside the bounds of any court of law to promptly seek redress from the Congress.

As for the second element—that is, whether the Café Car is a “mobile gastronomic enterprise”—my sister would find that it is not met because the Café Car cannot properly be considered “mobile.” My sister cites to China Garden and Maine Avenue Fish Market for the proposition that the enterprise under consideration must itself be mobile to be considered “mobile.”[1] This precedent should answer the question of whether the Café Car is mobile. As my sister states, the Café Car “goes to Newport News, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, Boston, and other cities in the Northeast.” I would ask my sister how an immobile establishment could easily visit these places in a mere matter of hours. Her decision does not adequately answer this question.

Instead, my sister would find that “ ‘mobile’ . . . must mean that the gastronomy comes to the customer, not that the customer travels with the enterprise.” There is no need to mince words; this is a silly and characteristically sloppy interpretation. We have said that the enterprise must be “mobile,” never that the customer must be immobile. Would not my sister’s interpretation bar our review of a dinner cruise on the Potomac? That is a sad state of affairs indeed. It is no secret I had long looked forward to a moonlight cruise.

I would find instead that the Café Car, while “mobile” and while an “enterprise,” is not “gastronomic.” Merriam-Webster defines “gastronomy” as “the art or science of good eating.” The offerings of the Café Car can hardly be termed “good eating.” It certainly strains credulity to attribute any “art” or “science” to their wares. In my experience, Café Car meals and snacks function less as sustenance and more as emetic.

This should not, however, be taken to require that we prejudge the quality of a mobile gastronomic enterprise’s in order to determine whether it is properly “gastronomic.” I would require only some modicum of “art” or “science,” or at least some minimal pretension to “good eating,” in order for a mobile enterprise to be considered “gastronomic.” This is not unlike the originality test of the law of copyright. Cf. Feist Pubs., Inc. v. Rural Tele. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991).

Because the Café Car does not provide that mere modicum of “art” or “science,” or make any honest pretension to “good eating,” it cannot be considered “gastronomic” and is therefore without the bounds of the jurisdiction of this Supreme Cart. I would therefore concur in the result, if not the reasoning, of my sister set forth above.

I will note in conclusion that this decision does not answer whether the more formal dining cars of long distance trains—e.g., the Palmetto, the Cardinal, and the Silver Star—would fall within our jurisdiction. I would leave that question for another day. We hold only that the Northeast Regional Café Car is not within the jurisdiction of this Supreme Cart.

 

[1] I will note that I dissented in both cases.

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