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The Implications of Ambiguous Standards

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Chapter 7
Part III
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ABA Adlaw Conference 2008 - Justice Garland, 2nd Cir, on Chevron:
If you have an ambiguous statute, and needChevrondeference, do not say that the interpretation is clear and there is no other way to construe the law. Say it is ambiguous and you are making a reasonable interpretation based on your knowledge of the statute and the regulatory circumstances.
The Implications of Ambiguous Standards
Assume you are agency council.Assume you have an ambiguous statute and the agency wants to propose a new ruleAlso assume that you want to avoid reversal in the courts because of the delay and costHow does your advice differ if you are sure you will getChevron, versus if there is a significant chance you will getMead?
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Judicial Review of Facts
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Scope of Judicial Review of Facts
Congress sets scope of review, within constitutional boundaries.Since the Constitution is silent on agencies, Congress has a pretty free handCongress can allow anything from a trial de novo to no review, unless such an action otherwise runs afoul of the constitution.
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Trial De Novo
You start over at the trial courtAgency findings can be used as evidence, but there is no deference to the agencyFOIAUsed more by the states than the feds
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Independent Judgment on the Evidence
Decide on the agency record, but do not defer to the agency's interpretation of the record.
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Clearly Erroneous
Definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made on the facts or policySame as reviewing a verdict by a trial judge without a jury
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Substantial Evidence - Formal Adjudications
706(2)(E) - only applies to formal adjudications and formal rulemakingCould a reasonable person have reached the same conclusion?Standard for reviewing a jury verdict or for taking a case from the juryShould a jury get more or less deference than an agency?Hint - substantial means some, not a lot, when you are the agency
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Substantial Evidence - Informal Adjudications and Rulemaking
706(2)(A)Arbitrary and capricious or abuse of discretionSame assessment of reasonableness as 706(2)(E), so the result is about the same as the substantial evidence test used for formal proceedingsThis is the most common standard
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Substantial Evidence - Universal Camera v. NLRB, 340 US 474 (1951)
it is ‘‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion’’; it is evidence sufficient to withstand a motion for a directed verdict. It is a less rigorous standard than ‘‘clearly erroneous,’’ the standard by which appellate courts review factual findings made by a trial judge. It is more rigorous than ‘‘no basis in fact.’’The agency’s ‘‘findings are entitled to respect, but they must nonetheless be set aside when the record before a [court] clearly precludes the [agency’s] decision from being justified by a fair estimate of the worth of the testimony of witnesses or its informed judgment on matters within its special competence or both. . . .’’
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Some Evidence
Scintilla testThe agency needs to show even less than in the substantial evidence standardOnly limited use
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Facts Not Reviewable At All
Congress can prevent certain types of judicial reviewCompensation decisions under the Smallpox Vaccine Compensation Act are not reviewableEnabling law is always reviewable unless Congress has taken away the court's subject matter jurisdiction
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What if the Court thinks the Agency's Policy Choice is Wrong?
Should the court defer to findings which it believes are clearly erroneous, but are supported by substantial evidence?Why is this consistent with the political control of agencies?When the legislature gives the agency the power, it is also saying that it only wants agency decisions overturned in the most serious casesCourts have different political views than agencies and thus they should be esp. careful about reversing agency decisions.
Agency/ALJConflicts
Assume there is a hearing before an ALJ, the ALJ prepares a recommended opinion, and the agency wants to overrule the ALJ.May the agency substitute its decision for that of the ALJ?Why is the agency in a different position than the court when reconsidering an ALJ decision?Whatmust the agency do when it wants to overrule an ALJ?
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ALJ Expertise
Which ALJ decisions are entitled to the most deference?Can the agency really reevaluate witness credibility decisions by the ALJ?What ALJ decisions are entitled to the least deference?In the firing of the union organizer caught smoking, why would evidence of an anti-smoking policy and enforcement reduce the deference to the ALJ’s determination of credibility of the witnesses?
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O’Leary v. Brown-Pacific-Maxon,340 U.S. 504 (1951)
Was a worker within course and scope of employment when he drowned trying to save a foundering swimmer?Were there any disputed facts?Is this a legal question, entitled to less deference, or a factual one, entitled to more deference?
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Frankfurter’s HybridDecision Analysis
[This] only serves to illustrate once more the variety of ascertainments covered by the blanket term ‘‘fact.’’ Here of course it does not connote a simple, external, physical event as to which there is conflicting testimony. The conclusion concerns a combination of happenings and the inferences drawn from them. In part at least, the inferences presuppose applicable standards for assessing the simple, external facts. Yet the standards are not so severable from the experience of industry nor of such a nature as to be peculiarly appropriate for independent judicial ascertainment as ‘‘questions of law.’’
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NLRB v. Bell Aerospace Co., 416 U.S. 267 (1974)
Company refuses to bargain with buyers, saying they are managers.Agencyfinds that only managers whose interests align with the company are exempted from unionization.The court overruled the agency, holding that the law exempted all managers.Why no substantial evidence review andHearst/Chevrondeference?How might the agency still get deference on the remand to determine whether buyers are managers?
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Cabining Arbitrary and Capricious Review
Old definitionHighly deferential to the agencySame as rational relationship test in constitutional lawCitizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402 (1971)Added the notion of looking at the administrative record before the agency‘‘a substantial inquiry,’’ ‘‘a thorough, probing, in-depth review, and [a] searching and careful [inquiry into the facts].’
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"Hard Look" -National Lime Assn. v. EPA, 627 F.2d 416, 453 (D.C. Cir. 1980)
[judicial review should] evince a concern that variables be accounted for, that the representativeness of test conditions be ascertained, that the validity of tests be assured and the statistical significance of results determined. Collectively, these concerns have sometimes been expressed as a need for “reasoned decision-making.” . . . However expressed, these more substantive concerns have been coupled with a requirement that assumptions be stated, that process be revealed, that the rejection of alternate theories or abandonment of alternate course of action be explained and that the rationale for the ultimate decision be set forth in a manner which permits the . . . courts to exercise their statutory responsibility upon review.
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Hard Look at What?
The courts cannot use hard look to change the underlying requirement that they defer to agency decisionmaking on facts and policy.Hard look analysis requires agencies to make sure that the record for the case provides a clear basis for theirfactfindingand their policy decisions.The court cannot change the decision, but it can require the agency to provide better support for its decisions.
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When Should the Court Allow the Record to be Supplemented by the Agency?
This would result in de novo review of the new materialLike a trial transcript on appeal, the record is usually closedThere can be an exception if the issue being appealed to the courts is the agency's failure to allow outside input and thus failing to consider all relevant factors.The court can allow the new material and give the agency a chance to supplement its record in responseThere can also be an exception if the plaintiff makes a credible showing of significant bias by the agency and the court needs to evaluate it.The court can ask the agency to appoint an ALJ to take evidence and present it to the court - RARE
Motor Vehicle Manufacturers v State Farm Mutual Auto, 463 U.S. 29 (1983)
Who are the real parties at interest?What are these parties in the case?DOT had previously justified the need for a rule on seatbelts.Now DOT wants to rescind that rule.Why is a rescission subject to the same record requirements as the promulgation of a rule?Why does rescission so soon after the promulgation of the rule undermine deference arguments?
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NRDC, Inc. v. Herrington, 768 F.2d 1355 (D.C. Cir. 1985)
DOE has the power to set a standard for appliance efficiency that preempts stricter state standardsDOE has a rulemaking for a non-rule, i.e., it publishes the support for its conclusion that there should not be a rule.NRDC challenges the explanation of the model it used and the DOE’s assumption that increased energy use under its non-rule would not have environmental consequences.Why did the court find that the assumption that more energy consumption would not have an environmental impact to be arbitrary and capricious?What will the agency need to do to overcome this?
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American Dental Assn. v. Martin, 984 F.2d 823 (7th Cir. 1993)
OSHA bloodbornepathogens ruleRequiresuniversal precautionsin all health care workplacesThese include gloves, sharps management, eye protection, and other controls to reduce exposure to bloodDentistscharge that the agency did not show specific risks in dentistry and thus the rule was arbitrary and capriciousWerethey right?
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Can the Agency Promise to not Enforce the Rule for Home Health Workers?
The bloodborne pathogens rule required employers to control exposurein theworkplacesIn all health care workplaces except home health, the employer had control over the employeeHome health agencies said they could not comply with the rule because they did not have enough controlOSHA says it will not enforce the rule against themIs this enough to save the rule from being arbitrary and capricious?
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Challenging Agency Action - Review
First, you have to show it is a final agency actionRulesOrdersEverything elseThen you argue about standard of reviewThe more agency process, the more deferenceUnless the statute or congressional intent conflicts with the agency action or interpretation
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De Novo Review Under the APA
Section 706(2)(F) provides for setting aside agency action found to be “unwarranted by the facts to the extent that the facts are subject to trial de novo by the reviewing court.”Overton Park- such de novo review is authorized when the action is adjudicatory in nature and the agencyfactfindingproceduresare inadequateAbsent bad faith, the court never finds thisIn real life, you only get de novo rule by statute
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Forcing Agencies to Act
Section 706(1) provides that a court is to compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.Sometimes the court will find that there has been too much delay, such as in OSHA's decade long refusal to address drinking water standards for workersCourts recognize that agencies have limited resourcesUsually you have to have a statutory deadline or other limit on discretion to force agency action
Attacking a Rule after the Deadline
Once the deadline for attacking the substance of a rule has passed, you cannot attack the rule directly.(Constitutional and ultra vires attacks aside)You are entitled to an answer on a petition requesting a rulemaking or the amendment of a ruleIf the agency gives you an unsatisfactory answer, you can litigate that –Mass v. EPAThis can be a way to air the issues in court
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Judicial Remedies for Improper Rules
Remand but leave the rule in forceCannot do this for unconstitutional rules or rules that exceed agency authorityWhat is the impact of staying the rule?Pulling a diabetes drug off the market?Remand and stay the ruleWill wild animals escape?Will there be risks?Is the court defeating agency policy making?
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Relying on Agency Advice - Equitable Estoppel
You cannot get money damages - no appropriationsNot under the tort claims actIt is a defense to criminal claimsCan be a defense to civil enforcement finesHow did you get the advice?IRS letter ruling v. advice over the phone?Relying on an agency mistake that you know about or an agency failure to enforce a law does not work
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Collateral Estoppel - Relying on Previous Court Decisions
Same facts, same partiesGovernment is boundSame facts, different partiesGovernment is not boundWhat if they are close?Fred loses on a FOIA claim, gets his friend Taylor to ask for the same document10 Cir says close enough, estoppelUnited States Supreme Court says no exception to identity of the parties for virtual representation - no estoppelTaylor v. Sturgell, 128 S. Ct. 2161 (2008)
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Non-Acquiesce - Adjudications
The government canrelitigatethe same facts (different parties) in different circuits to get better resultsOr to get a split to get United States Supreme Court reviewIntra-circuit non-acquiesce is more controversialAgency loses in the circuit in a specific case, but continues to apply the same law to other partiesHow would you argue that you are not bound by the earlier determination?
Non-Acquiesce- Rules
If you believe that an agency rule is not supported by the record, or is otherwise invalid, what do you usually ask the court to do?If the court agrees with you and does this, why does it prevent the agency from applying the rule in other cases, unlike the adjudication situation?What is the agency's recourse?If the court upholds the rule, why can litigants still challenge it in other cases?
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The Implications of Ambiguous Standards