The Lost World of Administrative Law

by Daniel Farber | March 05, 2014

The regulatory process has become more opaque and less accountable. We need to fix that.

Every year, thousands of law students take a course in administrative law.  It’s a great course, and we wish even more students took it.  But there’s a risk that students may come away with a vision of the regulatory process that is increasingly disconnected with reality.  Worse, the leading judicial opinions on the subject suggest that judges may suffer from a similar disconnect.

The Administrative Procedure Act is based on the premise that Congress delegates the power to address a problem to an agency, which then applies the statute to formulate a regulation.  Policy is driven by the statute along with the views of the agency head, who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  But the realities are often different.  Policy is often driven, not so much by Congress, as by Presidential orders requiring the use of cost-benefit analysis.  The final decision about whether to regulate, and even the details of the regulation, may be decided by a White House office called OIRA.  The head of the agency is frequently a temporary appointee, generally a lower level agency official who may not have much clout within the executive branch.  The regulatory system as it actually operates is much different from the world ...

Chemical Industry takes Aim at Citizen Suits with 'Reform' Bill

by Sidney Shapiro | February 07, 2014
The recent chemical spill disaster in West Virginia has brought into sharp focus the weak measures we have in place for safeguarding people and the environment against exposures to harmful chemicals.  State and civil justice systems have helped to fill the resulting void by providing individuals who have suffered harmful exposures with an opportunity to hold accountable any people or corporations responsible for the chemical by seeking reasonable compensation for their injuries.  It’s often difficult to win these cases, and ...

Senate Republicans against DC Circuit Court nominees: talking through their hats

by Sidney Shapiro | October 30, 2013
This week, it was reported that Senate Democrats plan to force a vote to confirm one judicial nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals if Republican Senators continue to block the nominee’s confirmation. Patricia Ann Millett, who has worked for Democratic and Republican administrations in the past, is the contested candidate.  Although the circuit court has three vacancies, the Republicans oppose a vote because they say the D.C. Court of Appeals has too many judges. Senator Jefferson Sessions, for example, ...

Death of a Statute: The Kiobel Ruling

by John Knox | April 19, 2013
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ended a generation of human rights litigation in the United States by holding, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not apply to actions occurring in foreign countries. The ATS allows plaintiffs to sue in federal courts for torts committed in violation of international law and, since 1980, plaintiffs have used it for claims of grave human rights violations, such as torture, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killing, and even genocide, ...

A Tribute to Joe Feller

by Robert Glicksman | April 16, 2013
Last week, CPR lost one its most dynamic scholars, Joe Feller, in a tragic accident. Joe was deservedly well known as a staunch and vigorous advocate on behalf of natural resource preservation, especially the public rangelands that he loved. Joe was not cut from the typical academic mold. Although he wrote frequently and with vision about subjects that included rangeland protection and water law issues, he was at least as comfortable leading environmental protection efforts in the agencies and the courts. Joe filed administrative ...

Kiobel Returns!

by John Knox | September 28, 2012
Remember Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, argued before the Supreme Court last term?  It’s back – the Court will hear argument again Monday – and bigger than before.  A brief recap:  For decades, Shell has extracted oil from the Niger Delta, causing extensive environmental degradation.  The government of Nigeria, with the alleged support of Shell, cracked down on protests by the local residents, the Ogoni tribe, by executing their leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others in 1995.  Members of the ...

BP Spill: Perp Walk for Underling Shouldn't Satisfy Anyone

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2012
With considerable media flourish, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday the first and so far only criminal charges related to the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 workers, and did profound violence to the Gulf of Mexico and the local economies dependent up on it. One Kurt Mix, 50, an engineer involved in designing the failed “top kill” remedy, was indicted for obstruction of justice. More specifically, he's accused of deleting text messages from his phone that he ...

The Good and the Bad in the BP Settlement, and the Main Course Still Ahead

by Robert Verchick | April 23, 2012
I spent last Friday – the second anniversary of the BP Blowout – in the vast basement of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court building, shifting in my metal chair, ignoring the talk-show chatter from the flat screens, and keeping an eye on the red digit counter to know when my number was up. I'd been called for jury duty. Whether I will eventually be deployed is up to the gods, but until then I had resolved to study (with ...

Limiting the Rights of Medical Malpractice Victims: House GOP Leaders Make a Bad Idea Worse

by Sidney Shapiro | March 20, 2012
House GOP leaders may vote as early as this week on legislation that would eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a cost-saving measure that was established as part of the national health care reform Congress passed in 2010.  House leaders have also attached national restrictions on the right of patients to recover damages for medical malpractice (H.R. 5) to the IPAB bill, with the joint bill being called H.R. 5.  The sponsors of the bills allege that the savings ...

A New Twist in the Kiobel Case

by John Knox | March 07, 2012
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum, the case asking whether corporations can be liable in federal court for violations of international human rights law.  In the decision under review, the Second Circuit – unlike every other circuit court to consider the question – had held that they could never be liable.  So one might think that a logical way for the petitioners to begin their oral argument would be to give an ...

After Partial Settlement, Oil Spill Case on a Slow Boil

by Robert Verchick | March 05, 2012
The BP Oil Spill case settled! Well, part of it. The smaller part. But, still, we must count this a victory for U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, whose reported 72 million pages of assigned reading will inevitably be shaved down. (Does this man have an iPad?) On Friday evening the court announced that BP had reached a settlement with the steering committee that represents thousands of private plaintiffs in the case. Judge Barbier postponed the trial indefinitely while the remaining ...

The Age of Greed: Chemical Industry Fights to Suppress Dioxin Assessment

by Rena Steinzor | January 09, 2012
With a reverential nod to maverick economist Jeff Madrick, who wrote a popular book of the same name, I begin today a series of blog posts entitled “The Age of Greed” that is designed to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners where Washington lobbyists are busy looting the protection of public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment.  Business-as-usual efforts to stall or derail regulation won’t make it into this space.  Rather, behavior has to be demonstrably ...

In Chevron versus Ecuador, the Decisions (and the Ironies) Multiply

by John Knox | January 09, 2012
If environmental cases had their own Olympics, the dispute between Chevron and Ecuador would be a contender for multiple gold medals.  It seems to have a shot not only at winning the award for the largest damages, but also for running the longest and appearing in the most courtrooms.  To recap:  Residents of the Amazon have been trying for nearly 20 years to receive compensation for massive environmental damage Chevron’s predecessor, Texaco, allegedly caused in Ecuador in what’s been called ...

Fifth Circuit Mulls Katrina Flood Ruling

by Robert Verchick | November 15, 2011
    Today’s question: When are flood waters not “flood waters”? We New Orleanians have become fluent in all things subaqueous; last week three Texans sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals took their turn. Yes, we’re talking about Katrina. Or, more specifically, its flood waters, which busted federal levees in fifty places, swamped 80% of New Orleans, and caused 800 deaths in the urban area. It is beyond argument that federal malfeasance played a key role. But sovereign immunity ...

National Meat Association v. Harris: More Preemption in the Supreme Court

by Bill Funk | November 04, 2011
On November 9th the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in National Meat Association v. Harris, wading once again into the mire of federal preemption. The National Meat case involves a California statute that prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory animals for human consumption and requires that non-ambulatory animals be immediately and humanely euthanized. A federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), thoroughly regulates, although one could question how strictly, the process of slaughtering animals for human consumption. It also contains an express ...

Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products: How the First Circuit Opened Courthouse Doors for Wronged Parties to Present Wider Range of Scientific Evidence

by Carl Cranor | July 25, 2011
In Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceutical,  General Electric. v. Joiner, and Kumho Tire v. Carmichael the U.S. Supreme Court sought to bring principles for reviewing expert testimony in line with the Federal Rules of Evidence. The opinions sought  to ensure that legal arguments would better comport with the pertinent science needed for the legal cases at issue. To achieve this goal the court gave trial judges a greter duty to review expert testimony for relevance and reliability before plaintiffs could bring ...

Echeverria Testifies on Eminent Domain Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 13, 2011
CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria was on Capitol Hill yesterday, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution. His topic was a proposed bill from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to impose federal limits on state and local use of eminent domain – the authority to condemn private property so that it can be used for public purposes. The subject became particularly controversial in 2005 when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. City of New London, ...

The BP Oil Spill: Hollow Regulation Meets Hobbled Law

by Sidney Shapiro | March 11, 2011
This coming April 20 will mark the one-year anniversary of the first day of the BP Oil Spill – a three-month polluta-polluza that eventually became the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the world. That was the night that a long series of failures finally came to a head: failures aboard the Deepwater Horizon by BP and its contractors, failures in the enforcement of regulations intended to prevent such disasters or at least limit the damage from them, ...

Access to the Courts

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, many conservatives argue that markets are self-correcting, and that manufacturers who produce shoddy products or that pollute the environment quickly lose customers and go out of business. They're wrong. Americans need access to the courts so they can hold corner-cutting corporations accountable for the harm they cause.

New Report: A Fair Economy Requires Access to the Courts

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White Collar Crime and the Trump Administration

Steinzor | Apr 27, 2017 | Access to the Courts

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