Monday, April 3, 2017

Just in: SCOTUS on standard of review for District Court decisions on EEOC subpoenas

Okay, it's not the most exciting employment law issue, but it was important enough for the Supreme Court to take a look at it.

This morning, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in McLane Co., Inc. v. EEOC. Bonus points to Justice Sotomayor (writing for everyone but Ginsburg, J. who filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part) for succinctly explaining the issue and holding in the opening paragraph:
Justice Sotomayor
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue a subpoena to obtain evidence from an employer that is relevant to a pending investigation. The statute authorizes a district court to issue an order enforcing such a subpoena. The question presented here is whether a court of appeals should review a district court’s decision to enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena de novo or for abuse of discretion. This decision should be reviewed for abuse of discretion.
The decision noted that most courts applied a deferential standard of review to district court decisions regarding administrative agency subpoenas. Also, the inquiry is usually fact-intensive and case-specific, making district courts well-suited to make such determinations.

Justice Ginsburg agreed that abuse of discretion was generally the proper standard of review; but, the lower court had committed an error of law in this case, which was properly reviewed de novo.