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7th Circuit denies petitions seeking review of mine safety regulations

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday found that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration acted within its statutory and constitutional authority in demanding review of employee medical records to ensure mines were not under-reporting injuries or illnesses.

In October 2010, the MSHA acted on a new and broader interpretation of existing regulations that would allow inspectors to review employee medical and personnel records to ensure mines were accurately reporting miner injuries or illnesses. This review would be on top of the requirement that mine operators provide injury and illness reports.

When two mine operators refused to provide the records, MSHA issued citations and fines. The mine operators argued that MSHA isn’t authorized to require them to produce records beyond those that regulations specifically require them to maintain. The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission and an administrative law judge found the document demands and enforcement to be lawful. The mine operators and a group of mine employees sought review by the 7th Circuit. The miners intervened before the commission to raise personal privacy challenges to the documents.

The petitioners argued (1) that MSHA does not have the authority to require mines to comply with the demands under the Mine Safety Act or relevant regulations; (2) that the relevant regulation, 30 C.F.R. § 50.41, is not a reasonable interpretation of the Mine Safety Act and was not properly promulgated; (3) that the document demands infringe the mine operators’ Fourth Amendment right not to be searched without a warrant; (4) that the demands violate the miners’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights in their medical records; (5) that the daily penalties MSHA imposed for failure to comply violate the mine operators’ Fifth Amendment right to due process of law; and (6) that the demands conflict with a variety of other federal and state laws.

In a 57-page opinion authored by Judge David Hamilton, Big Ridge Inc., Jerad Bickett, et al. v. Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, et al., 12-2316, 12-2460, the 7th Circuit denied the petitioners request for review, agreeing with the commission that MSHA acted within its statutory and constitutional authority in demanding information that would allow MSHA to verify the accuracy of the mine operators’ injury reports and in issuing citations and fines when the operators did not comply.

The MSHA’s record demands do not conflict with federal and state laws as the petitioners and amicus National Mining Association argued, Hamilton wrote. The Mine Safety Act preempts state privacy laws in the event of any conflict, and the Americans with Disabilities Act’s and the Family and Medical Leave Act’s confidentiality requirements would not be violated by disclosure to MSHA pursuant to these orders.

“The records that MSHA seeks from mine operators are reasonably necessary for the agency to be able to fulfill its responsibility to protect miner safety and health. Without the records, significant numbers of mine-related injuries and illnesses may go unaccounted for, and mines operating under risky and hazardous conditions may continue to do so without sanction. In light of the long history of mine accidents and illness, Congress has given the Secretary and MSHA powerful tools to protect miners. Those tools include the demands to inspect documents at issue here,” he wrote.

 

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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