Government Colluded with Airlines and Robbed Property Owners: Inside MSLF’s New Supreme Court Brief

Mountain States Legal Foundation has filed a Supreme Court brief, urging the high court to review the case, Love Terminal Partners, L.P. v. United States.

The case is about corruption among the powerful and politically connected. 

In this instance, government officials and executives at two major airlines–American and Southwest–joined together to take what they wanted from a small group of Texas property owners.

Here’s the background: The Wright Amendment, a federal law passed in 1979, was a protectionist measure designed to promote growth of the new DFW airport in North Texas and suffocate Love Field. This law was the work of the House Majority Leader, Jim Wright, who represented Ft. Worth at the time, near DFW.

If this scenario is starting to smell bad to you already, you aren’t alone.

When Congress was set to end the Wright Amendment in the mid 2000s, it faced a battle between Southwest Airlines (whose main hub is at Love Field) and American Airlines (whose area hub is located at DFW). 

Executives at Southwest and American, along with officials for the cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth, agreed to reduce the number of available gates at Love Field from 32 to 20, in exchange for all parties agreeing to the repeal of the Wright Amendment. But this decision would have a catastrophic financial impact on the group of savvy investors who owned a small auxiliary terminal at Love Field. 

Here’s the kicker: Love Field’s main terminal is owned by the City of Dallas. Love Field’s smaller Lemmon Avenue Terminal is owned by private investors through the company Love Terminal Partners, L.P. The owners of the smaller terminal were in negotiations with JetBlue and other airlines about offering service once the Wright Amendment was lifted.  

The investors had had immense foresight when they purchased the auxiliary terminal, and they were about to make a fortune off their savvy investment.

Southwest and American, however, lobbied Congress to codify their agreement into a law known as the Wright Amendment Reform Act “WARA.” WARA instructed Dallas to condemn the Lemmon Avenue Terminal and mandated by law that the terminal and property could never again be used for air passenger service. 

This completely destroyed the value of the privately-owned terminal, which would have been extremely profitable had the Wright Amendment been repealed without this special deal. Because Congress codified the antitrust violation into law, the parties got off scot free. 

For the investors, it felt like a legalized form of robbery. They went to the trial court (Court of Federal Claims) and won just compensation of $133 million. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the decision.

We now have one last chance to right this wrong–at the United States Supreme Court.

“Governments and rent-seeking private parties must not be allowed to steal property and remove competition,” says Christian Corrigan, MSLF’s lead attorney on the case.  

There are vital principles at stake. The Constitution mandates that private property cannot be taken without just compensation, and private property cannot be taken for private use via public-private collusion. 

Mountain States Legal Foundation has filed this important brief, urging the Supreme Court to review this case, because private property should never be violated for the sake of the well-connected few.

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Love Terminal Partners, L.P. v. United States

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