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Administrative Law

Summers v. Earth Island Institute

Public Citizen Litigation Group is assisting in representing a coalition of environmental groups in the Supreme Court of the United States in this case, in which the federal government seeks to limit dramatically the ability of citizens to challenge unlawful government regulations. The environmental groups filed the case originally to challenge the Forest Service’s promulgation of a regulation that deprives them of their statutory right to comment on and administratively appeal decisions of the Forest Service that implement forest plans. The lower courts ruled that the regulation was unlawful. Without challenging that determination, the federal government sought review by the Supreme Court, arguing that the lower courts should not have decided the case because it was not “ripe” for review and/or because the environmental groups lacked standing to challenge the rule. The government also argued that the lower courts should not have set aside the rule nationwide even if they were correct in determining that it was unlawful.

The Supreme Court decided to accept the case, and it will be argued in October 2008.

The questions presented are:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in allowing a facial challenge to one set of regulatory provisions and dismissing challenges to seven others on ripeness grounds, where there is no dispute that the one set of rules allowed to be reviewed had been applied countless times by the Forest Service, including an application of the rules to a site-specific action challenged in the district court?
  2. Did the respondents have standing, where it is undisputed that the challenged regulations had been applied to them countless times, including an application of the rules to a site-specific action challenged in the district court for which standing was not challenged?
  3. 3. Did the facial rule challenge become moot, where the site-specific action was preliminarily enjoined and then the challenges to it were settled, but there is no dispute that the agency continued to apply the regulations to countless other site-specific actions that adversely affected respondents?
  4. 4. Did the Ninth Circuit err in finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in completely setting aside the challenged regulations instead of limiting relief to the Eastern District of California, where respondents are organizations affected by the challenged regulations throughout the country?

View docket updates.

U.S. Forest Service v. Earth Island Institute, et al.

Whether the court of appeals erred in ordering a preliminary injunction under the Administrative Procedure Act [barring the Forest Service from proceeding with two projects in the Eldorado National Forest], including by:

  1. Relying on declarations filed by respondents in the district court, rather than confining its review to the administrative record;
  2. Holding that respondents could satisfy the "irreparable injury" prong of the test for obtaining a preliminary injunction by showing only a "possibility" of such injury; and
  3. Discounting competing interests in the use of Forest lands under multiple use principles, and the Forest Service's balance of those competing uses, in weighing the balance of harms and the public interest.

Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos v. Department of Labor

This suit alleged that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) systematically violated The Trade Act of 1974 by failing to ensure that Spanish-speaking workers who lost their jobs in the wake of NAFTA received the vocational training to which they were entitled under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Although the program was intended to provide effective job retraining to workers who lose their jobs because of trade agreements, the DOL sent thousands of Hispanic trade-dislocated workers to remedial English classes that did not help the workers learn new job skills.

The lawsuit was filed by Public Citizen and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid on behalf of Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos (the Association of Border Workers, or ATF). The lawsuit was filed in federal court in DC and transferred to the Western District of Texas. The suit alleged that the DOL violated the law by allowing state agencies that implement the program to: 1) approve incomplete training; 2) renounce Congress' 80 percent wage replacement objective for all Trade Act training; and 3) ignore the preference for on-the-job training.

After ATF's motion for summary judgment was briefed and argued, the case was settled. The settlement requires DOL to spend $6.5 million on new job training for El Paso workers who previously received deficient training, and requires nationwide policy changes that will end each of the agency practices that the workers alleged were unlawful.

Jordan v. Riley

Public Citizen. et al. v. Mineta (2d Circuit)

Public Citizen, the New York Public Interest Research Group, and the Center for Auto Safety have successfully challenged the Department of Transportation's decision to allow installation of an ineffective system to warn drivers when their tires are under inflated.

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