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Monday, August 1, 2011

Legal Experts Speak Out Against Congressional Overreach

- Joshua Friedlander

Since the 2010 elections, the nation has seen a concerted effort by conservative politicians to weaken American workers’ rights, both at the state level and in Congress. This sentiment has been clearly exhibited by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) who is waging an all-out corporate-directed attack on government agencies like the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

On July 29, a group of 34 legal experts spoke out against Issa’s strong-arm tactics with an open letter condemning his interference with an ongoing law enforcement investigation into an NLRB complaint against the Boeing Corporation. Issa has used his committee to bully NLRB investigators and to characterize the agency's adherence to the law as somehow politically motivated. His actions in this case are clearly inappropriate, and are a prime example of congressional overreach.  

The letter from legal experts was spurred by a July 12 letter sent by Issa to Lafe Solomon, Acting General Counsel of the NLRB, demanding that the committee receive all investigation-related documents from the complaint against Boeing. Although Solomon has already released "discoverable" documents to ensure due process and a fair trial for both parties, Issa continues to demand all case-related documents.

The legal experts are "gravely concerned by the undue pressure that this [Issa's] letter, and its threats to compel disclosure of privileged documents, have placed on an independent law enforcement agency" and that the committee’s intervention in an ongoing investigation could result in federal courts nullifying and overturning the decision in the case. The experts argue that “such a result would jeopardize our long-held democratic principles and respect for the rule of law.” The academics urge the committee to “let this case proceed according to the policies established in the National Labor Relations Act without further interference.” More than 30 academics from 29 universities and law schools joined the letter.

The NLRB’s complaint again Boeing alleges that the company violated federal labor law by transferring an airplane production line from a union facility in the state of Washington to a non-union facility in South Carolina for retaliatory reasons. The case is currently being tried before Administrative Federal Judge Clifford Anderson, who has rejected Boeing’s motion of dismissal for failing to provide a claim.

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