National Federation of Federal Employees , Local 1309 v. Department of Interior - Oral Argument - November 09, 1998

National Federation of Federal Employees , Local 1309 v. Department of Interior

Media for National Federation of Federal Employees , Local 1309 v. Department of Interior

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 03, 1999 in National Federation of Federal Employees , Local 1309 v. Department of Interior

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1998 in National Federation of Federal Employees , Local 1309 v. Department of Interior

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 97 1184, the National Federation of Federal Employees v. The Department of the Interior, and a companion case.

Mr. Smith.

David M. Smith:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court--

This case involves the Federal Labor Relations Authority's interpretation of its own organic statute.

The Authority has concluded that the Federal Service Labor Management Relations statute obligates an agency to bargain over union initiated proposals offered during the term of a collective bargaining agreement.

William H. Rehnquist:

Didn't the agency at one time have a different position and then changed its position just as a result of the decision of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit?

David M. Smith:

Mr. Chief Justice, the Federal Labor Relations Authority indeed did originally come down on the opposite side of this question in its IRS I decision.

However, subsequent to the reversal by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia the Authority reevaluated the issue and changed its mind, and decided that the statute did, in fact, obligate the agency to bargain.

William H. Rehnquist:

How much choice did it have in the light of the court of appeals decision?

David M. Smith:

The Authority has in several cases, Your Honor, chosen to nonacquiesce in a court of appeals decision with which it disagreed.

We cite in brief cases where we've done this when we disagreed, so the Authority could have, given the multiple venue provisions of our statute, have chosen not to have followed the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia's decision in this case, but did, in fact, reconsider its original position and decide that the D.C. Circuit was, in fact, correct.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Are the terms and the substance of the reconsideration set forth on remand from the agency in the IRS case?

Has the agency issued any other adjudicative dispositions or any rules to indicate that it continues to adhere to this position and to add to its reasoning in any respect?

David M. Smith:

Yes, Justice Kennedy, the Authority has, on numerous occasions, subsequent to its IRS II decision in 1987, adhered to the position it took in IRS II and determined that mid term collective bargaining is required under the statute.

The Authority said originally in the case on remand from the District of Columbia that it had reconsidered the issue and thought the District of Columbia Court of Appeals was correct and, despite several reversals by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Authority has stuck to its position.

This has, in fact, been our position since 1987.

Antonin Scalia:

Mr. Smith, you're here representing the Authority which is, as I recollect, three individuals, no more than two of whom can be from the same political party, appointed for 5 years and not removable except for cause.

David M. Smith:

That's correct.

Antonin Scalia:

And also appearing is... in today's argument is the Solicitor General, who, I suppose, is appearing on behalf of the President of the United States.

David M. Smith:

Well, he will, of course, tell you on whose behalf he is appearing.

I appear on behalf of--

Antonin Scalia:

Well, so we have a disagreement between these three individuals and the President of the United States regarding a statute that goes to the internal management of the personnel of the executive branch.

Is that a fair description of what's going on here?

David M. Smith:

--I think we interpret the statute differently.

The agencies of Government have a view--

Antonin Scalia:

And you want us to give deference to these three members of the Federal Labor Relations.

Authority in preference to the views of the President of the United States as to what the efficient management of the personnel of the executive branch requires?

David M. Smith:

--Well, there are several points raised there, Justice Scalia.

We don't think deference is required in this case because we think the statute is clear that there is an obligation to bargain midterm.

If you think it unclear, yes, we would seek deference in this case.