None of that kept Justin from ascending to the D.C. Circuit, though. And as an appellate judge, he’s consistently upheld the rights of corporations to be free from pesky government rules. In 2021, Justin overturned Obama-era rules that required trailers in tractor-trailers – you know, big rigs – to meet fuel economy standards. Federal law allows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set fuel economy standards for “commercial medium-duty or heavy-duty on-highway vehicles.” But because trailers don’t have motors, Justin held that they’re not “vehicles.” (He just read that into the definition; the federal statute didn’t require that “vehicles” have motors.) Tractors have no purpose unless they’re pulling trailers or going to pick up a trailer, so trailers are an integral part of the whole vehicular system. But Justin pointed out that sometimes, you see tractors on the highway that aren’t pulling anything, so the trailers must not be “vehicles.”
In another case, Justin helped protect airlines from Congressional oversight. For decades, airlines have been shrinking seats to stuff as many passengers as possible into their tin cans. Advocacy groups pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt rules setting minimum seat sizes, but the FAA refused to do so. In 2018, advocates successfully lobbied Congress to pass a law ordering the FAA to adopt rules “that establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft… that are necessary for the safety of passengers.” The FAA decided that minimum seat size rules were not “necessary for the safety of passengers,” so it didn’t have to do anything. And in 2023, after advocacy groups sued to force the FAA to follow the law, Justin agreed with the FAA. Congress, he held, hadn’t charged the FAA with a “clear legal duty” to adopt rules, even though Congress had specifically ordered the FAA to adopt rules. Make sure to thank Justin next time you’re crammed into a coach seat on a 5-hour flight.
The Weird Shit
As you may recall, during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2018, Professor Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a house party when the two were both high school students. In her Senate testimony, Professor Ford was clear, forthright, and utterly believable. But Trump stood behind his nominee, Senate Republicans fell in line, Kavanaugh denied all wrongdoing and cried on national television, and he was confirmed by a vote of 50-48.