Sixth Circuit Rules on Appointment of FMSHRC ALJs

On July 31, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a decision in a case Noelle Holladay True from our firm is handling, Jones Brothers, Inc. v. MSHA, Case No. 17-3483, ruling that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (“Commission”) did not properly appoint the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) who decided the underlying case.  

Applying the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Lucia v. Securities & Exchange Commission, the Court held that Commission ALJs are “inferior officers” who must be appointed by “the President, a Court of Law, or a Head of Department” pursuant to the Appointments Clause in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Const. art. II, Section 2, cl. 2.  

Since the ALJ in the case below was appointed by the Commission’s Chief ALJ, but not by the Commission (a “Department”) itself, the Court held the ALJ was not validly appointed pursuant to the Appointments Clause. Since the ALJ’s appointment was unconstitutional, the Court vacated the underlying decision and remanded the case for fresh proceedings before a new ALJ.  

 

A link to the full text of the Sixth Circuit’s Decision may be found here.

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