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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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