Legislative History Example - Older Federal Act

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Example: Legislative History for 49 USC 44902(b)  re: removing a passenger from a commercial aircraftairplane

You represent We Fly You The Best, a small commuter airline operating out of Cleveland, Ohio.  Your client is being sued by Joel Hugego, the President of an information technology company in Cleveland, who was removed from one of We Fly You The Best's aircrafts for drunken and physically dangerous behavior.  Mr. Hugego claims he was totally in charge of his faculties, despite numerous eye witness accounts of his ransacking of the aircraft's galley for scotch whiskey and repeated attempts to dance the "can-can" with flight attendants and crew.  Mr. Hugego further claims his removal from the aircraft lead to his absence from a critical meeting that would have sealed a large investment in his company as well as bringing 500 new jobs to Cleveland.  The airline stands behind its decision to remove Mr. Hugego based upon 49 USC 44902(b).  Can you find legislative history documents to help defend your client?


A. Determine Which Public Law(s) are relevant.

1.  In an annotated copy of the U.S. Code, look at the History section after the text of the U.S. Code Section.  LexisNexis® 49 USC 44902

2.  Examine each Public Law to determine whether the public law created or changed the USC subsection in question, and whether the change was substantial

  • 1958 P.L. 85-726 - Federal Aviation Act of 1958.  Did not contain the language of 49 USC 44902(b).  [Pull off Westlaw - searchable pdf.]
  • 1961 P.L. 87-197 LexisNexis® 75 Stat. 466.  Amended Federal Aviation Act & added Sec. 1111.  Section 4 of the public law added the provision giving airlines the authority to refuse transportation of persons or property if it is, in the opinion of the air carrier, inimical to safety.  Section 4 of the public law became 49 USC 1511.

"Subject to reasonable rules and regulations prescribed by the Administrator, any air carrier is authorized to refuse transportation to a passenger or to refuse to transport property when, in the opinion of the air carrier, such transportation would or might be inimical to safety of flight."

  • 1974 P.L. 93-366 LexisNexis® 88 Stat. 409 - Did not substantively change the language regarding permissive removal, but added the language regarding mandatory refusal when a person does not give consent to search.
  • 1994 P.L. 103-272 -  Technical amendments - no substantive change.  Changed the section number from 49 USC 1511 to 49 USC 44902.
  • 2001 P.L. 107-71 -  Technical amendments - no substantive change.

B. What Sources can be Used?

  • What sources can be used depends on the age of the public law.
  • 1961 P.L. 87-197 -  Use USCCAN (United States Code Congressional and Administrative News); CIS US Congressional Committee Hearings Index ; CIS United States Serial Set Index; LexisNexis Congressional Universe.

C. Find the relevant bill numbers.

  • Statutes at Large LexisNexis® 75 Stat. 466 indicates the bill that passed was S. 2268 - "To amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to provide for the application of federal criminal law to certain events occurring on board aircrafts in air commerce."
  • USCCAN (Westlaw or paper)
    • There was a companion bill, HR 8384.
    • On Westlaw, go to directory > U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > Legislative History - U.S. Code, 1948 -present
    • search for PL 87-197
    • you will retrieve House Report No._87-958 (1961)  (Word doc)

    " (To accompany H.R. 8384) The Senate bill was passed in lieu of the House bill after substituting for its language the text of the House bill."

    House Report No. 87-958 does not say anything about an aircraft carrier refusing passage.

D. Try to find a compiled legislative history.

E. Use LexisNexis Congressional Universe  or  Serial Set Index & Committee Hearing Index  to find House and Senate Reports, Committee Hearings etc.

1.  Search for S.2268

Senate Report 694 (pdf)  August 9, 1961.  Says something to the effect that the regs for removal of passengers have to be written to protect the rights of citizens and ensure precautions vs abuse.  [See page 5 of the report.]

Senate Aviation Subcommittee Hearing  Aug. 4, 1961 [Full text not on Congressional Universe.  The link here is to a pdf from the microfiche; the entire hearing was not copied.]  At page 44-53, the witness is talking about FAA procedures to scrutinize passengers boarding a plane and detain them from boarding.  The possibility of mistakes by airline employees and civil liability of airlines is mentioned.  It was stated that an airline is a common carrier and has to give a ride to whoever shows up.  One of the congress people suggested putting in language so that an airline could refuse boarding.  More of the Senate Subcommittee Hearing.

House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce Hearing  Aug. 7, 8, 1961  [Full text not on Congressional Universe.  The link here is to a pdf from the microfiche; entire hearing was not copied. ]  There was a discussion regarding authority to refuse passage at pages 63-65.  More of the House Hearing.

2.  Search for H.R. 8384

House Report No. 87-958 (pdf)  August 16, 1961 (not that helpful).

3.  Search for refus! /s transport! and "air carrier" or airlines.

4.  Search for indexing terms -  air travel, federal aviation act, civil aviation, airlines, etc.

F. Find more relevant bill numbers, if any.

The Senate Committee Hearing (pdf) Aug. 4, 1961, stated it was a hearing on 87 S. 2374; 87 S. 2370; 87 S. 2373 as well as S. 2268.  The House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce Hearing (pdf) Aug. 7, 8, 1961 was on  87 H.R. 8504; 87 H.R. 8380; 87 H.R. 8384; 87 H.R. 8428; 87 H.R. 8488; 87 H.R. 8496 as well as H.R. 8384.

Did any of these bills have language concerning refusal to transport?

  • The hearings transcripts contain the text of these bills - it does not look like any of them concerned refusal of transport.
  • On LexisNexis Congressional Universe, searched for the other bill numbers plus aircraft or airline or air travel or aviation - did not get anything else ... so, no other relevant house, senate reports or hearings.
  • The Congressional Record (KF 35 .U57) usually also contains the text of the bills.  For bills from 1961, you must use the Congressional Record in print.
    • Look for the bill history in the index (pdf) -  It will briefly describe the bill and provide the steps which the bill went through in the legislative process, with corresponding cites to the Congressional Record.
    • 107 Cong. Rec. S.14475 (pdf) (Aug. 3, 1961) -  Has the text of the other Senate bills.

G. Find relevant Congressional Record sections.

  • For 1961, you must use the paper Congressional Record (Law Stacks, 2nd Floor, KF 35 .U57).  For 1985 and onward, you can find the Congressional Record on LexisNexis, LexisNexis Congressional Universe, and Westlaw.  For 1989 and onward the Congressional Records is on Thomas.  HeinOnline has the Congressional Record before 1913 as well as 1982-2003.
  • Look for the bill history in the index (pdf) -  It will briefly describe the bill and provide the steps which the bill went through in the legislative process with corresponding cites to the Congressional Record.  Specifically look at the bill history for S.2268 and H.R. 8384.  History tells who the sponsors were.
  • Relevant remarks re. permissive removal are found in congrec15411 (pdf) (at the bottom of the 2nd column), but mostly they are talking about making criminal actions on airlines federal offenses, crime of piracy, etc.
  • From the Congressional Record and the Hearings, it is revealed that the Senate bill was initially introduced in July 1961as a reaction to a passenger who pulled a knife when his liquor was taken away.  The culprit was unable to be prosecuted under state laws for the more serious offenses, so S.2268 was created to make assault, etc. aboard an aircraft a federal offense.  Additionally, a Cuban national hijacked a plane to Cuba.
  • On Aug 9 there was a hijacking by Cuban nationals, which appeared to expedite the legislation.
  • No presidential signing statement.