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Monday, February 12, 2007

Ferries in East Hampton. East Hampton has a law that requires all ferry operators to obtain a special permit before using a ferry terminal within the Town and which restricts the types of ferries that may use local terminals. A ferry service challenged the law, claiming that it was unconstitutional in that it violated the Dormant Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, as well as the New York State Equal Protection Clause. It further asserted that the law constitutes an improper and abusive exercise of the Town's police power under the laws and Constitution of New York. The ferry service sought to enjoin enforcement of the law.

The Town moved for summary judgment, and the ferry service cross-moved for summary judgment on all claims except for the police power claim. The District Court granted the Town's motion and denied the ferry service's cross-motion.

The Second Circuit vacated the District Court's judment insofar as it determined that the law did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause and otherwise affirmed the judgment. The case was remanded to the District Court for further proceedings.

The Court found that there was a question of material fact as to whether the law imposes a disparate impact on interstate travelers. It further held that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the law does not actually produce any of its intended benefits so as to justify the potential burden on interstate commerce. Because the ferry issue did not focus on this issue before the District Court, the Second Circuit did not decide the issue, but remanded the case to the District Court so that it could have the first crack at the issue.

The decision in Town of Southold v. Town of East Hampton can be found here.

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