Environmental Group’s Request for Cruise Ship Terminal Lawsuit to be Heard at Federal Level Denied

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

When dealing with maritime matters, it can be tricky trying to determine whether a lawsuit should be brought in the United States or abroad. Even for matters based in the United States, legal issues can be fought at the local or national level, and without a top maritime lawyer who has experience in knowing when and where to file an admiralty case, proceedings can take a long time to resolve and may not end favorably.

This is an issue that a local environmental and preservation group is currently dealing with, after filing a lawsuit in Washington in July concerning a new cruise terminal set to be built in South Carolina. According to the Preservation Society of Charleston and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation, the $35 million cruise terminal that has been planned for Charleston is of national importance and must be dealt with at the nation’s capital. However, a federal judge who heard the case disagreed and transferred the case to South Carolina, ruling that the matter is a local issue.

The environment groups are seeking to invalidate a U.S. Corps of Engineers permit that allows the State Ports Authority to renovate a riverfront warehouse to create the new terminal. They argue that under the National Historic Preservation Act, more attention should be paid to how the historic district will be affected by the creation of the terminal.

The attorneys representing the groups contend that the consultation is required by law and if bypassed, “approving a new cruise ship terminal that will impact nationally significant, federally protected properties in one of the country’s most historically intact towns has substantial nationwide ramifications.”

However, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered on Sept. 27 that the case be transferred out of Washington because the claim “is overwhelmingly local in nature and has no meaningful nexus in the District of Columbia.”

The cruise terminal project “is located in Charleston, its many effects – whatever they might be – will be felt there and the relevant decision-makers in the Corps are there as well, thus giving the District of South Carolina meaningful ties to the controversy.”

Since both the plaintiffs and the defendants are located in South Carolina, Judge Boasberg said it’s only fitting that the case be moved to the state where the project is based. He added that while the corps is headquartered in Washington and the case does involve federal law, the implementing authority is not a federal agency.

“If it were, any challenge involving a federal law implemented by a federal agency could not be transferred elsewhere,” he wrote, adding that just because a case involves a federal law and a federal agency, it doesn’t mean it should be heard in Washington.

The groups as well as a number of residents have filed a lawsuit in South Carolina court alleging the expansion of the cruise industry in Charleston is a “public nuisance.”

There are several rules that govern maritime law, and as such, need to be reviewed by an experienced attorney to help bring about the best outcome. If you need assistance with any admiralty and maritime matter, turn to our skilled maritime attorneys today to file a case. Our lawyers have over 165 years of combined experience in the field and have brought maritime cases in both the U.S. and abroad, so you can rest assured your case will be handled by an experienced professional. To get started on your case, contact Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. today to schedule a consultation.