from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
KING, HAYNES, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE
decide whether private persons can sue in federal district
court to enforce the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986
("ACAA"), Pub. L. No. 99-435, 100 Stat. 1080
(codified as amended at 49 U.S.C. § 41705). Although we
answered that question affirmatively in Shinault v.
American Airlines, Inc., 936 F.2d 796, 800 (5th Cir.
1991), the Supreme Court's intervening decision in
Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286-91 (2001),
now mandates a different result. We therefore join every
post-Sandoval federal court to consider the issue
and hold that the ACAA confers no such private right of
Stokes sues Southwest Airlines on behalf of her young son
with autism. She alleges that Southwest gate agents prevented
her family from boarding their flight, allegedly because the
agents considered her son's behavior disruptive. A
Southwest pilot had also allegedly been rude to them the
previous day. According to Stokes, her son suffered
"great physical emotional and mental pain and
anguish" as a result of these experiences.
originally asserted claims under state law and under the
Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). In
response to Southwest's motion to dismiss, however,
Stokes withdrew the ADA claim and substituted a new claim
under a different disability-discrimination statute: the
ACAA. See 49 U.S.C. § 41705(a). Southwest again
moved to dismiss, arguing that the state-law claims were
preempted and that only the federal government may sue to
enforce the ACAA in district court. The district court
initially granted the motion to dismiss only in part. But on
Southwest's motion to reconsider, the district court held
that the ACAA confers no right of action to private
litigants; declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over the remaining state-law claims, see 28 U.S.C.
1367(c)(3); and accordingly dismissed the case.
appeal, Stokes challenges only the district court's
conclusion that the ACAA supplies no private right of action.
"We review this issue of law de novo."
Casas v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 304 F.3d 517, 520 (5th
a given statute should be enforceable through private civil
lawsuits is, like any aspect of statutory design,
fundamentally up to Congress. E.g.,
Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 286; Johnson v. Interstate
Mgmt. Co., LLC, 849 F.3d 1093, 1097 (D.C. Cir. 2017);
Delancey v. City of Austin, 570 F.3d 590, 592- 93
(5th Cir. 2009). Often, Congress expressly provides for
private civil-suit enforcement. Other times, however,
Congress specifies only criminal-law enforcement, or leaves
civil enforcement in the hands of administrative agencies.
Courts are bound to follow Congress's choices in this
arena, and bound to ascertain those choices through the tools
of statutory interpretation. Sandoval, 532 U.S. at
286-87. "If the statute does not itself so provide, a
private cause of action will not be created through judicial
mandate." Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843,
was not always the case. During the mid-twentieth century,
the Supreme Court viewed the fashioning of statutory remedies
as within the proper judicial role. Id. at 1855.
Under the now-abandoned maxim that "a statutory right
implies the existence of all necessary and appropriate
remedies, " id. (quoting Sullivan v. Little
Hunting Park, Inc., 396 U.S. 229, 239 (1969)), this
"ancien regime" routinely inferred private
rights of action from silent statutory text, id. The
Supreme Court's approach has since evolved. Starting in
Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66 (1975), affirmative
congressional intent became one of four relevant factors
(though not always a necessary one), see id. at 78,
82, and the next two decades of cases increasingly focused on
congressional intent alone, see, e.g., Love v.
Delta Air Lines, 310 F.3d 1347, 1351-52 & n.2 (11th
Cir. 2002) (collecting cases). See generally Richard
H. Fallon, Jr., et al., The Federal Courts and
the Federal System 705-07 (6th ed. 2009).
trend culminated in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S.
275, 286-93 (2001), which today defines the method for
identifying private rights of action. Sandoval's
command is clear: "[t]he judicial task is to interpret
the statute Congress has passed, " id.
at 286 (emphasis added), and to do so by consulting statutory
structure and text, id. at 288 & n.7.
"Legal context, " such as prevailing law at the
time of the statute's enactment, matters "only to
the extent it clari- fies text." Id. at 288.
And absent "affirmative" evidence of intent to
allow private civil suits, there can be no private right of