Posts Tagged ‘administrative law’

December 23 roundup

Supreme Court and constitutional law roundup

Free speech roundup

  • Venezuela files suit in U.S. against American website, Dolar Today, that is critical of its currency policies [George Selgin]
  • Michigan: “Felony prosecution for distributing pro-jury-nullification leaflets outside courthouse” [Eugene Volokh, earlier here, here, etc.] More: Judge tosses Denver D.A.’s attempt to jail jury nullification pamphleteers [Jacob Sullum, earlier]
  • Federal agencies should not get to decide for themselves whether they’re violating the First Amendment [Ilya Shapiro, Cato on cert petition in POM Wonderful v. Federal Trade Commission]
  • “After all, a wall can be built around many things, but not around the First Amendment.” One election lawyer’s response to cease/desist letter from Donald Trump [Chris Cillizza/Washington Post, letter courtesy Politico]
  • Court in Turkey considering a doctor’s comparison of Turkish President Erdogan with “Lord of Rings” character Gollum, and the results are preciousss [Sarah McLaughlin, Popehat]
  • Update on climatologist Michael Mann’s defamation suit, still in progress [Jonathan Adler, earlier]
  • Attacks on the right to speak one’s mind are multiplying. Would better civics education help? [George Leef, Forbes]

EEOC’s use of “administrative subpoenas”

No warrant needed: “administrative subpoenas” or “civil enforcement demands” allow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal agencies to demand “everything from Social Security numbers to medical records without a judge’s prior approval, so long as the information is “relevant” to the agency’s work.” Courts have allowed the maneuver although it bypasses the protections of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. [Kathryn Watson, Daily Caller]

How late the Auer

“Auer deference,” announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Auer v. Robbins (1997), requires courts to accord deference to a federal agency’s interpretation of its own statute. The U.S. Department of Education, contradicting some earlier statements, has lately taken the view that “collection costs may not be assessed against [student loan] borrowers who sign rehabilitation agreements,” thus turning unlawful in retrospect thousands of instances in which lenders have done that. The Seventh Circuit has now denied en banc rehearing in the case of Bryana Bible v. United Student Aid Funds, which — invoking Auer deference — let a suit go forward on that theory. Judge Frank Easterbrook, concurring in that denial of rehearing en banc (h/t Ted Frank), noted that Supreme Court justices including Auer’s original author have lately expressed doubts about the doctrine’s ongoing viability. Easterbrook:

…deference has set the stage for a conclusion that conduct, in compliance with agency advice when undertaken (and consistent with the district judge’s view of the regulations’ text), is now a federal felony and the basis of severe penalties in light of the Department’s revised interpretation announced while the case was on appeal.

Federal court: SEC cannot use employees as judges

The Securities and Exchange Commission practice of trying many complaints before administrative law judges (ALJs) who are its own employees, rather than before federal courts, has grown increasingly controversial lately and now one defendant’s challenge to the practice has prevailed — at least for the moment. A federal judge in Atlanta has ruled that because ALJs are “inferior officers” under the constitution, they cannot be simply employed like other federal workers by an agency like the SEC. Writes Thaya Knight at Cato, “there is a fairly easy fix available to the SEC: the five commissioners can simply appoint the existing ALJs to their current positions…. [but] other agencies could face greater difficulties.” But Daniel Fisher quotes Prof. Philip Hamburger as saying the ruling could still prove “profoundly important,” leading to the unraveling of other aspects of administrative law arrangements within agencies. More: W$J (commission fighting off at least seven legal challenges; in one instance it “asked one of its own judges to submit a formal statement about whether he has ever felt pressure to favor the agency”), Adam Zimmerman/PrawfsBlawg.

Beyond the U. Va. scandal: will courts disallow feds’ rule by “Dear Colleague” letter?

The crackdown on college grievance procedures by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) paved the way for such developments as the administrative panic at the University of Virginia following Rolling Stone’s bogus assault article. I’ve got some thoughts at Cato about how the OCR crackdown grows out of a type of federal agency power grab — rule by “Dear Colleague” letter, sometimes known as sub-regulatory guidance or stealth regulation — that did not begin with this issue. As federal agencies have learned how to wield broad regulatory power without having to go through the formal regulatory process with its legal protections for affected parties, the courts have begun to apply skeptical scrutiny — which could open up one avenue of challenging the federal guidelines. Earlier on subregulatory guidance/stealth regulation here, here, etc. More: related from John Graham and James Broughel, Mercatus.

Supreme Court roundup

  • In a new Cato podcast, I talk with Caleb Brown about the Court’s pending case on “disparate impact” liability in housing and finance, Texas Dept. of Housing vs. The Inclusive Communities Project [earlier, more]
  • Amicus briefs urge Court to recognize regulatory taking in raisin marketing order requisition case Horne v. Department of Agriculture [Trevor Burrus, Ilya Somin, earlier]
  • Organized campaign to disrupt Supreme Court sittings is sure to raise the concern of groups devoted to backing judicial independence. Right? [Orin Kerr, Legal Times, earlier on selective vision of some of the latter groups here, here, etc.]
  • Under the surface, routine decision in Perez indicates Justices’ changing attitudes toward Chevron, Auer, and agency deference in administrative law [Sasha Volokh]
  • Vong v. Aune, arising from Arizona cosmetology board ban on Asian “fish pedicure” techniques, could enable Court to examine economic rationality of regulation [Ilya Shapiro]
  • “Justices stick to middle of the road in Omnicare securities opinion” [Alison Frankel/Reuters, Bainbridge]
  • Sequel to Harris v. Quinn? In Center for Individual Rights’s Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case Court could revisit Abood question of public sector agency shop [On Labor, Larry Sand/City Journal]

Supreme Court roundup

Very Cato-centric this time:

  • Perez v. Mortgage Bankers: yes, agencies can dodge notice and comment requirements of Administrative Procedures Act by couching action as other than making new rule [SCOTUSBlog and more links, earlier; Michael Greve and followup; Daniel Fisher on concurrence by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito and related on Thomas, Alito concurrences in Amtrak case]
  • New Jersey high court is unreasonably hostile to arbitration clauses, which raises issues worthy of review [Shapiro on Cato cert petition]
  • “When Wisconsin Officials Badger Their Political Opponents, It’s a Federal Case” [Ilya Shapiro, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Richard Epstein on King v. Burwell oral argument [Hoover, earlier]
  • With Profs. Bill Eskridge and Steve Calabresi, Cato files probably its last same-sex marriage brief before SCOTUS [Shapiro; Timothy Kincaid, Box Turtle Bulletin]
  • On Abercrombie (religious headscarf) case, Jon Hyman sees an edge for plaintiff at supposedly pro-business Court [Ohio Employer Law Blog, earlier]
  • A different view on Fourth Amendment challenge to cops’ warrantless access to hotel guest registries [James Copland on Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz brief; earlier Cato amicus]
  • “Why the Court Should Strike Down the Armed Career Criminal Act as Unconstitutionally Vague” [Trevor Burrus]

Powhatan’s zingers in FERC case

We’ve noted (here and here) the battle between Powhatan Energy Fund and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a FERC investigation of Powhatan for vaguely defined “market manipulation.” A filing earlier this month by Powhatan in FERC proceedings (represented by Drinker Biddle) has some subheads taking a not-exactly-respectful tone seldom met with in high-stakes administrative proceedings (Response in Opposition To Order To Show Cause and Notice of Proposed Penalty, PDF):

  1. “Dr. Chen’s ‘Home Run’ Trading Strategy Is Not A ‘Post Hoc Invention’ Because, Among Other Things, 35 Is Less Than 50”
  2. “Dr. Chen’s Trades Were Not ‘Wash-like’ Or ‘Wash-type’ – Whatever The Heck That Means”
  3. “The Staff’s Stubborn Reliance On The Unpublished, NonPrecedential Amanat Case Is Just Lame”
  4. “Uttering the Phrase ‘Enron’ Or ‘Death Star’ Does Not Magically Transform The Staff’s Investigation”

The full document is here.