Amicus Brief: Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC v. Julie A. Su, in her official capacity as Acting Secretary of Labor, et al.

AMICUS BRIEF SUMMARY

NCLA filed amicus curiae briefs in Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC v. Su, et al., challenging the constitutionality of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. NCLA argues the OSH Act unlawfully transfers lawmaking power—specifically, the legislative power to promulgate permanent “safety standards”—by authorizing the Secretary of Labor to promulgate, modify, or revoke any occupational safety standard he deems “reasonably necessary or appropriate.”

Congress may not divest legislative power that Article I of the Constitution vests in it, even to an executive agency like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act’s criteria for safety standards is so open-ended that it delegates unchecked legislative authority to the Executive Branch to enact workplace safety laws. Such unfettered discretion to issue safety standards under Section 6(b) of the OSH Act is unconstitutional.

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CASE: Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC v. Su, et al.

ORIGINAL COURT: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

DECIDING COURT: U.S. Supreme Court

DOCUMENT: No. 22-3772

COUNSEL FOR AMICUS CURIAE: Sheng Li, Andrew Morris, Mark Chenoweth

FILED: November 15, 2022 ; October 13, 2023 ; February 29, 2024

CASE DOCUMENTS

February 29, 2024 | Brief of the New Civil Liberties Alliance as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner
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December 20, 2023 | Order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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October 13, 2023 | Brief of the New Civil Liberties as Amicus Curiae in Support of Rehearing en Banc
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August 23, 2023 | Opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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November 15, 2022 | Amicus Curiae Brief of the New Civil Liberties Alliance in Support of Plaintiff-Appellant
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PRESS RELEASES

March 1, 2024 | NCLA Brief Asks High Court to Restore Law Forbidding Congress from Divesting Legislative Power

Washington, DC (March 1, 2024) – Last night, the New Civil Liberties Alliance filed an amicus curiae brief at the Supreme Court in Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC v. Su, challenging the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, which divested lawmaking power to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The OSH Act unlawfully grants OSHA untrammeled legislative power by authorizing the Secretary of Labor to create, modify, or revoke any occupational safety standard she deems “reasonably necessary or appropriate.” NCLA asks the Supreme Court to hear the case and disallow this unconstitutional transfer of core Congressional authority.

Congress may not divest to an executive agency legislative power that Article I of the Constitution vests in it, a principle known as the nondelegation doctrine. The OSH Act violates this principle by delegating to the Secretary standardless power to enact whatever safety standard she deems “reasonably necessary” or “appropriate.” That open-ended language divests Congress’s lawmaking power to OSHA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit construed this statutory language as limited enough to pass constitutional muster. The Supreme Court should review the Sixth Circuit’s erroneous decision and deem unrestricted divestment of power impermissible.

NCLA’s amicus brief details how the nondelegation doctrine developed to prevent Congress from divesting legislative power to outside parties, but its modern application actually enables constitutional violations, wrongly legitimizing statutes that effectively grant power to the Executive Branch. This misnamed doctrine rests on multiple false assumptions, incorrectly implies that Congress can easily revoke power it transfers to agencies, and interferes with courts’ Article III duty by allowing Congress to delegate lawmaking based on nothing more than open-ended policy suggestions. Allstates v. Su provides a perfect opportunity to reinvigorate the nondelegation doctrine and restore the Vesting Clause in Article I, § 1 of the Constitution to its proper role.

NCLA released the following statements:

“The nondelegation doctrine purports to prohibit Congress from delegating any lawmaking power to executive agencies. But it has devolved into something that does just the opposite, promiscuously permitting such delegations. This case presents an ideal vehicle to restore the doctrine to its proper function because the broad delegation here—power to enact any “reasonably necessary or appropriate” safety standard—clearly crosses the line between an agency merely executing the law that Congress enacted and writing the law itself.”
— Sheng Li, Litigation Counsel, NCLA

“The Supreme Court should grant certiorari in this case and once again restrict the exercise of legislative power to Congress—where it belongs.”
— Mark Chenoweth, President, NCLA

For more information visit the amicus page here.

ABOUT NCLA

NCLA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unlawful power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights.

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November 15, 2022 | NCLA Amicus Brief Calls on Sixth Circuit to Restore Congress’ Power to Set Safety Standards

Washington, DC (November 15, 2022) – The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, has filed an amicus curiae brief in Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC v. Walsh, et al., challenging the constitutionality of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. NCLA’s brief asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to decide that the OSH Act unlawfully transfers lawmaking power—specifically, the legislative power to promulgate permanent “safety standards”—by authorizing the Secretary of Labor to promulgate, modify, or revoke any occupational safety standard he deems “reasonably necessary or appropriate.”

Congress may not divest legislative power that Article I of the Constitution vests in it, even to an executive agency like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act’s criteria for safety standards is so open-ended that it delegates unchecked legislative authority to the Executive Branch to enact workplace safety laws. Such unfettered discretion to issue safety standards under Section 6(b) of the OSH Act is unconstitutional.

The district court concluded that the OSH Act met the nondelegation doctrine’s (undemanding) intelligible-principle test. It held that Congress permissibly delegated to OSHA the discretion to determine the adequate level of public safety, and then to set standards based on that determination. But a statute with such a subjective criterion to guide Executive Branch conduct renders the intelligible-principle test meaningless. To avoid administrative lawmaking, the Supreme Court has explained that Congress must supply objective principles that allow “the courts to test” whether the agency has faithfully executed the legislative command. The OSH Act’s “reasonably necessary or appropriate” standard is completely subjective and thus fails this minimal requirement. The Sixth Circuit should issue a permanent injunction preventing OSHA from enforcing the standard at issue in this case.

NCLA released the following statement:

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that the Constitution prohibits Congress from transferring its lawmaking powers to an executive agency. If this restriction is to have any meaning at all, the OSH Act’s grant of unfettered discretion to enact workplace safety laws must be rejected on principle.”
— Sheng Li, Litigation Counsel, NCLA

For more information visit the amicus page here.

ABOUT NCLA 

NCLA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unlawful power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights.

Download the full document

OPINION

MEDIA MENTIONS

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