Polyweave Packaging, Inc. v. Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg, et al.
NCLA filed a lawsuit against Transportation Secretary Peter Buttigieg for revoking Department of Transportation (DOT) rules that expanded and protected due process during agency enforcement actions. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky on behalf of Polyweave Packaging, Inc. It argues that once substantive rights are extended, no federal agency may lawfully take them away by fiat. DOT would have to conduct notice-and-comment rulemaking to repeal the rules.
On April 2, 2021, Buttigieg arbitrarily rescinded DOT’s binding rules, which recognized a comprehensive set of rights, including a new mandate that DOT personnel voluntarily disclose all exculpatory evidence to those targeted by a civil enforcement action. This rule applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brady v. Maryland to the administrative context. DOT first addressed longstanding concerns about civil enforcement abuse in a February 2019 General Counsel’s memorandum. Shortly thereafter, the Bradbury Memo’s key provisions, requiring, among other things, prohibiting “fishing expedition” investigations without sufficient evidence in hand to support a violation, ending endless enforcement, and mandating fair and transparent civil penalties, were codified into binding rules.
Buttigieg seemingly revoked DOT’s due process rules to comply with President Biden’s “Day One” Executive Order demanding that agencies “rescind any orders, rules regulations, guidelines or policies” that supposedly inhibit the federal government’s ability to address “the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, economic recovery, racial justice, and climate change.” But Buttigieg did not explain why or how affording due process might “threaten” DOT’s response to these issues. Buttigieg revoked the rules without allowing Polyweave or the public to comment beforehand, and he did so without considering Polyweave’s reliance interests, even though Congress and Supreme Court precedent require it.
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CASE STATUS: Active
CASE START DATE: May 19, 2021
DECIDING COURT: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky
ORIGINAL COURT: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky