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16 Catt. 4: In re Make My Cake

2013 January 30

CATTLEYA, J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. JEREMY, C.J., wrote a separate concurrence.

Make My Cake (“MMC”) is a food truck based in New York City. On Monday, January 21, 2013, for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, MMC drove from Harlem to Washington, DC to serve cupcakes and cheesecakes to inauguration attendees. MMC was permitted by the inauguration committee to serve the District’s streets for one day. The question before us today is whether this Supreme Cart has jurisdiction over MMC’s cakes.

I. Jurisdictional Test

Under the Judiciary Act of 2011 (Cartiorari Act), “the Supreme Cart [has] 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.”

Thus, 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.

II. Located in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria

At the center of the present case is the first element, which requires the mobile gastronomic enterprise under consideration to be located in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria. The second and third elements are not in dispute. So, is MMC—a NY-based truck that served DC’s streets for one day—“situated” in DC?

We have once before met with a mobile gastronomic enterprise that served food in DC for a limited time. In In re Amtrak Café Car, 14 Catt. 1 (2012), we denied jurisdiction to a regional train that sold food to its passengers because, inter alia, it left the Cart’s geographic jurisdiction.

MMC’s case, however, is not identical to Amtrak’s. Amtrak happened to serve food to its passengers in DC. It served food while the train moved from Boston to New Haven to New York to Philadelphia to DC to Richmond to Norfolk. MMC, on the other hand, purposely traveled from New York to DC to serve its cakes. Its intention was to serve cakes in DC. It applied for a special inauguration permit, it underwent health and safety inspections by DC officials, and it followed DC officials’ instructions to set up along Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day. Unlike Amtrak which just passed through DC, MMC purposefully came to DC.

I find that the analysis to settle the question before this Cart (i.e., whether a mobile gastronomic enterprise that temporarily enters our geographic region is “situated” in our geographic region) is similar to the personal jurisdiction analysis of federal civil procedure. A court in Place A has personal jurisdiction over a party from Place B if the party has “minimum contacts” with Place A. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945). Minimum contacts can arise from the party’s activities within Place A. The court in Place A, for example, has jurisdiction over the party from Place B if the party purposefully avails himself of the laws of Place A. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980).

Similarly, a mobile gastronomic enterprise that temporarily enters our geographic region is located in our region for the purposes of our jurisdictional test if it purposefully avails itself of the resources of our region. By availing itself of the resources of our region, it establishes sufficient “minimum contacts” to be considered “situated” in our region, even if it is ordinarily based in another place. Concluding that the Cart has jurisdiction over such a mobile gastronomic enterprise is consistent with the notions of “fair play” and “substantial justice.” International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316.

In the present case, MMC left New York and entered the Cart’s geographic jurisdiction for one day. While here, MMC purposefully availed itself of the resources of DC. It benefited from DC’s special rules allowing non-local food trucks to serve the District’s streets on Inauguration Day, and it enjoyed the advantages of being permitted by DC officials to serve its cakes at a prime spot along Pennsylvania Avenue. Since MMC purposefully availed itself of DC’s resources, it is fair to find that the NY-based MMC was located in DC for the purposes of the Cart’s jurisdictional test.

The first element of our jurisdictional test is satisfied. And since neither element two nor three is at issue, MMC meets all three elements of the test. Thus, this Cart holds that it has jurisdiction to review MMC, a NY-based food truck that temporarily entered DC and established sufficient minimum contacts with DC by purposefully availing itself of the resources of DC.

III. Mootness

Despite the finding that the Cart has jurisdiction over MMC, the case of MMC must be dismissed on mootness grounds. Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, our judicial power extends only to actual cases and controversies. If a case does not present a live controversy, the case is moot and must be dismissed.

Here, the controversy is not live. MMC received a permit to serve its cakes in DC for one day, on January 21. Today, on January 30, MMC is no longer selling its cakes in DC, or anywhere else within our geographic jurisdiction. What’s more, MMC has not demonstrated an intention to return to sell its cakes. For example, if MMC made regular bi-monthly trips to serve its cakes in DC or Northern Virginia, or otherwise established a pattern of travelling here for events throughout the year, then the controversy might still be live. But as it is, MMC’s service in DC was one-time and is now over, so there is no controversy to settle.

Plus, it would be cruel to tell our readers all about a cupcake or cheesecake that they might never have the chance to try for themselves.

IV. Conclusion

For the reasons above, the case is


JEREMY, C.J., concurring.

I agree with my sister’s conclusions in the present case. I write separately only to register once more my discomfort with my sister’s wanton and reckless interpretation of the precedent of this Cart in In re Amtrak Café Car, 14 Catt. 1 (2012), upon which my sister relies in reaching her conclusions. When she says “we” found X in that case, she speaks only in the most royal sense of the pronoun. But my discussion of the matter is already set forth in my opinion concurring in the result of Amtrak.

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