Shouldering the Load: The Commission's Use of Settlement Judges to Manage its Increasingly Heavy Docket - Coal Age Magazine

    8 April 2008

    Now more than ever, mine operators are exercising their legal right under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act to formally contest or challenge the citations and orders issued by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission is the independent adjudicative agency charged with trial and appellate review of MSHA’s enforcement actions. Prior to 2006, the Commission handled an average of 2,500 cases annually. Since then, its docket has exploded with what the Commission’s Chairman, Michael F. Duffy, described as a “dramatic surge in new cases.” In 2008, the Commission predicts that more than 7,000 new cases will be filed. Its workload has tripled over the last few years, but its budget and staff have not. To date, the Commission has responded well to this massive increase in its workload. The best example of this is the Commission’s recent willingness to provide parties with an opportunity and a forum to essentially mediate a case. To appreciate why this initiative—and mediation generally— makes so much sense right now, it is important to start with a brief review of what caused this massive increase in MSHA litigation.

     

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    Reprinted with permission from Coal Age Magazine