United States Department of Labor v. Triplett

PETITIONER: United States Department of Labor
RESPONDENT: Triplett
LOCATION: Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Illinois (Chicago Office)

DOCKET NO.: 88-1671
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

CITATION: 494 US 715 (1990)
ARGUED: Jan 16, 1990
DECIDED: Mar 27, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Jane Moran - on behalf of the Respondent
Michael R. Dreeben - on behalf of the Petitioner U.S. Department of Labor

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States Department of Labor v. Triplett

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1990 in United States Department of Labor v. Triplett

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 27, 1990 in United States Department of Labor v. Triplett

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 88-1671, United States Department of Labor versus Triplett will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

It concerns the Black Lung Benefits Act which prohibits attorneys from receiving fees for representing claimants except as those fees are approved by the Department of Labor.

The Department’s regulations invalidate all contractual fee agreements.

Respondent is an attorney who represented claimants on a contingent fee basis and he collected those fees without the requisite approval.

The Committee on Legal Ethics of the State Bar recommended that respondent be suspended, but the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals denied enforcement ruling that the prohibition on receipt of contingency fees violated the claimant’s due process rights by denying them access to counsel.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

We first conclude that petitioner, Committee on Legal Ethics, has standing and that respondent has third party standing to raise his client’s due process claims.

On the merits, we find that respondent has failed to prove that the scheme he challenges made attorneys unavailable to his prospective clients at the time he violated the Act.

Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Marshall has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part two of which Justice Brennan has joined; Justice Brennan has filed a separate statement.