Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel

PETITIONER: Eastern Enterprises
LOCATION: United States Department of State

DOCKET NO.: 97-42
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 524 US 498 (1998)
ARGUED: Mar 04, 1998
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1998

Edwin S. Kneedler - supporting the Federal Respondents
John T. Montgomery - on behalf of the Petitioner
Peter Buscemi - on behalf of the Respondents UMWA

Facts of the case

Currently unknown.


Currently unknown.

Media for Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1998 in Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in number 97-42, Eastern Enterprises vs. Kenneth S. Apfel.

Mr. Montgomery.

John T. Montgomery:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case presents the question left open in prior cases concerning the extent to which the Fifth Amendment places any restriction on the power of Congress to impose retroactive liability on private parties to fund social programs.

The Coal Act of 1992 is an unprecedented statute as applied to Eastern Enterprises and it is contrary to the constitutional traditions embodied in the Fifth Amendment for two distinct reasons.

First, the Coal Act violates the Due Process Clause because it changes the legal consequences of past employment relationships that concluded long ago at a time when Eastern could not have anticipated any future obligation to former employees.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Are you arguing substantive due process or procedural due process?

John T. Montgomery:

Your Honor, we have attempted to the best we can not to put a label, but if a label is necessary.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

I suggest you are going to have to if you are going to persuade us.

John T. Montgomery:

Your Honor, if a label must be placed it would have to be substantive due process but as we have pointed out in our briefs, the values that we seek to protect here are largely procedural values.

The interest in notice, in understanding the consequences of one's actions.

It is procedural in that sense, I suppose in the way that the void for vagueness doctrine is procedural.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

You went... it went through the legislative process.

That's probably all a procedural due process you are entitled to.

You fall back on a substantive claim.

John T. Montgomery:

Certainly the Court has restricted procedural due process to the legislative process in the past and we don't mean to suggest that in order to prevail in this case the Court needs to create a new doctrine.

Antonin Scalia:

And substantive due process as you know is not in good odor with regard to economic rights for some reason, although we still apply it with respect to noneconomic rights.

John T. Montgomery:

It certainly has not been in good favor for some decades, Justice Scalia.

The Court, however, has been very careful in its decisions not to suggest that there were not limits to the power of Congress to enact retroactive legislation, and we are here to say that this is the case which crosses that border.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, if your client is not, maybe as sympathetic a client as some of the ones talked about in some of the amicus briefs filed in this case.

I guess Eastern sold the coal mining operation to a wholly owned subsidiary in effect.

John T. Montgomery:

We transferred--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

And then there was cross management.

I mean, some of the same managers of Eastern were also managers of the subsidiary corporation, so Eastern doesn't come here in the same shoes as some of the amici.

John T. Montgomery:

--We are certainly not in the same shoes of those amici who have been driven into bankruptcy, but in terms of the analytical application of the statute to Eastern, liability has been imposed on Eastern solely because it was an employer of miner's before 1946.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Let me ask you one more question and then I'll subside here.

You have a right of reimbursement.

Is that right?

From Eastern for any liability incurred here?

John T. Montgomery:

Section 9706(f), Justice O'Connor, preserves to Eastern any right that it may have had to seek recovery from its subsidiary or the party to whom it sold the subsidiary, Peabody Coal.