Best Key Textiles Co. v. United States

In Best Key Textiles Co. v. United States, No. 2014-1327 (February 3, 2015), the recipient of a ruling concerning the tariff classification of metalized yarn challenged Customs decision to revoke the ruling as being Arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not otherwise in accordance with law, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiff contended that it had lost $200 million in customer orders as a result of the revocation, and asked the court to review both the substance of the ruling and the process by which it was revoked. The ruling recipient could not file a protest on the classification of its yarn, since the revocation ruling assigned it a lower rate of duty than applied to metalized yarn. The plaintiff=s damage was not in the payment of Customs duties, but in the loss of business, it contended.

After initially dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the CIT reconsidered and reinstated the case, and upheld the revocation ruling. Best Key appealed to the Federal Circuit.

In its decision, the Federal Circuit ignored the merits of the plaintiffs claim altogether, and told the CIT to reinstate its earlier ruling dismissing the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff was not trying to vindicate its own rights, the appellate court said, but the rights of its customers who would be assessed with higher duties on garments made with the yarn. The plaintiff's remedy, the Court held, would be to go into the garment business, import garments and pay the higher duty, and then slog through the traditional protest procedure B a years-long undertaking which, in any event, would not lead to review of the contested ruling. The plaintiff did not have a case which could be heard under the CIT's 28 U.S.C. '1581(I) residual jurisdiction which, the Court indicated, must be strictly construed.The decision should be alarming to the trade community, since it suggests that Customs rulings, and their revocation or modification, are not judicially reviewable or perhaps reviewable only in the Federal District Courts.