Third District Court of Appeal Judge Leslie Rothenberg was the guest speaker Monday night at adjunct professor Timothy M. Ravitch's class. The Hughes case addresses federal pre-emption following the 1978 deregulation of airlines.
In Hughes, two pilots went out drinking in Miami until 5 a.m. — then showed up to pilot a morning flight to Phoenix with 125 passengers aboard. Alerted by security personnel who had observed the co-pilot's behavior, Miami-Dade police stopped the plane as it was being pulled away from the terminal. The pilots argued the state couldn't criminally charge them because federal aviation law pre-empted state law.
In her first year as an appellate judge, Rothenberg wrote in the opinion that the federal rules dealing with airplane pilots did not expressly pre-empt the state from prosecuting pilots for operating a plane while intoxicated or operating the plane carelessly or recklessly. The pilots had appealed their conviction in the courtroom of former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David H. Young.