Court Opinions

You must be familiar with the relevant regulations and statutes if your import, but the court cases interpreting those regulations and statutes are equally important.

Here are court cases to update your expertise.

International Customs Products v. US, (CIT May 5, 2015) – Importers often challenge CBP’s classification of imported merchandise, but what is the legal mechanism that allows an importer  to bring and sustain a lawsuit, i.e., establish jurisdiction? However, the court balked when the importer invoked its constitutional right to due process. The court concluded, and cited legal precedent, that importers do not have a constitutional right to import. That point in this particular case may have been academic because the court found alternative grounds for granting jurisdiction, but it does not bode well for the importing community when the court strips you of your constitutional protections.

Carbon Activated v. CBP, 6 F. Supp. 3d (CIT 2014) –  To the surprise of many, importers should monitor the liquidation of their entries if they wish to preserve their rights, as demonstrated in this opinion from the U.S. Court of International Trade.  CBP liquidated three entries belonging to the importer in this antidumping case. The importer tried to challenge the liquidation three years after liquidation. The Court dismissed the importer’s lawsuit and concluded that the importer should have filed a protest within 180 days after liquidation.

Seafarers v. King Ocean (SD FL May 29, 2015) –  This lawsuit is between an importer of fish and the transportation company.  A plaintiff, the aggrieved party bringing and funding the lawsuit, typically wants litigation to be quick and inexpensive. It also often prefers to argue its case before a jury. On the other side of the courtroom, the defendant wants to drag everything out in a war of attrition. As a consequence, plaintiffs prefer litigating in state court where procedure is more freewheeling and defendants prefer the stodgy environments of federal court. The plaintiff can usually file in either state or federal court, but if it files in state court, the defendant has the right to transfer or remove the lawsuit to federal district court if the matter concerns a federal statute or international treaty. In this instance, the importer paid $50,000 in liquidated damages to CBP when it failed to redeliver its shipment to CBP.  The importer sued the transportation company in state court, blaming it for the penalty, but the transportation company removed the case to federal district court. The importer claimed that removal was improper because no federal issue was involved.  The federal judge disagreed, concluding that United States Carriage of Goods by Sea Act or COSGA, a federal statute, was involved. 

US v. $75,000 (D Puerto Rico, April 7, 2015) –  This case should remind everybody not to import lottery tickets. Traveling to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic, a woman carried $75,000 worth of winning lottery tickets bought in Barbados. The Court concluded that the lottery tickets were illegal contraband that the woman could not claim even though the tickets were issued by Puerto Rico.  

US v. Freight Forwarder International (CIT January 21, 2015) – The U.S. Court of International Trade approved a $10,000 penalty that CBP issued against a company for transacting customs business without a customs broker’s license. Although the company employed an in-house customs broker, the company did not hold a corporate customs broker’s license when it paid on behalf of other parties to CBP the duties and fees for nineteen on entries.

Original article by Oscar Gonzalez

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