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Metal Conversion Technologies, LLC v. United States Department of Transportation

NCLA filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case and decide that courts can equitably toll statutory deadlines to forestall agencies from tricking their enforcement targets. Metal Conversion Technologies, LLC is a family-owned company that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration tried to punish via an unconstitutionally appointed agency adjudicator. Despite knowing that its hearing officer was improperly appointed, DOT allowed that official to issue a civil penalty against Metal Conversion for allegedly violating Hazardous Materials Regulations. DOT then failed to disclose the official’s improper appointment, preventing the company from seeking judicial review of the civil penalty on that basis within the normal statutory deadline.

PHMSA revealed in an July 2022 federal appeals court case that Chief Safety Officer Harold McMillan was not properly appointed by the President or Secretary of Transportation to adjudicate administrative proceedings, even after the Supreme Court’s Lucia v. SEC decision. Metal Conversion’s administrative appeal of its original penalty order had been pending before the improperly appointed adjudicator for seven months at that time. Under Lucia, DOT should have given Metal Conversion a new proceeding before an adjudicator without an appointment defect. Instead, it allowed the defectively appointed adjudicator to issue final orders in cases he heard while improperly appointed—including this one.

Metal Conversion first learned that its adjudicator lacked proper appointment on October 18, 2022—from an attorney for another NCLA client, whose own civil penalty was vacated at DOT’s behest due to McMillan’s defective appointment. Metal Conversion filed a petition for judicial review of McMillan’s final civil penalty order on December 15, 2022. Its filing met the statutorily required 60-day filing deadline, if that deadline is equitably adjusted to begin running when the company discovered the appointment defect.

Mark Chenoweth
President and Chief Legal Officer
Kara Rollins
Litigation Counsel
Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
NCLA FILINGS

Petition for a Writ of Certiorari

February 9, 2024 | Read More

Order of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Denying Rehearing

October 12, 2023 | Read More

Metal Conversion Technologies’ Petition for Panel Rehearing and Rehearing en Banc

September 7, 2023 | Read More

Opinion by a Panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

July 27, 2023 | Read More

Department of Transportation's Jurisdictional Response

February 14, 2023 | Read More

PRESS RELEASES

NCLA Asks Supreme Court to Permit Equitable Tolling of Statutory Deadlines to Thwart Agency Deceit

February 9, 2024 | Read More

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