969 F.2d 970 (10th Cir. 1992), 91-8029, Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Martin

Docket Nº:91-8029.
Citation:969 F.2d 970
Party Name:THUNDER BASIN COAL COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Lynn MARTIN, as Secretary, United States Department of Labor; United States Department of Labor, William J. Tattersall, as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety & Health; William Holgate, as District Manager Coal Mine Safety and Health, District 9, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and
Case Date:July 20, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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969 F.2d 970 (10th Cir. 1992)



Lynn MARTIN, as Secretary, United States Department of Labor; United States Department of Labor, William J. Tattersall, as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety & Health; William Holgate, as District Manager Coal Mine Safety and Health, District 9, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and Mine Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 91-8029.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

July 20, 1992

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc

Denied Aug. 28, 1993.

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Colleen A. Geraghty, Atty. (David S. Fortney, Deputy Sol. of Labor; Edward P. Clair, Associate Sol., W. Christian Schumann, Counsel, Appellate Litigation, with her on the briefs), U.S. Dept. of Labor, Arlington, Va., for defendants-appellants.

Charles W. Newcom of Sherman & Howard, Denver, Colo. (Thomas F. Linn of Atlantic Richfield Co., with him on the brief), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before LOGAN and TACHA, Circuit Judges, and COOK, District Judge. [*]

LOGAN, Circuit Judge.

Defendants-appellants, including the United States Secretary of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), seek to overturn a preliminary injunction granted by the district court enjoining the Secretary of Labor from enforcing 30 C.F.R. pt. 40 against plaintiff-appellee Thunder Basin Coal Company (Thunder Basin). Although the parties discuss several issues concerning the propriety of the district court's grant of the preliminary injunction, we need address only one: whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief from enforcement of a regulation under Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 ("the Mine Act" or "the Act"), 30 U.S.C. § 801, et seq.


30 C.F.R. pt. 40 is a regulation issued under the Mine Act that establishes the procedure and administrative requirements for designation of a miner representative under the Act. See 30 U.S.C. § 813(f). The Mine Act requires frequent inspections of mines to gather and disseminate health and safety information and to determine

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compliance with health and safety standards. Id. § 813(a). A miner representative has the right to accompany the MSHA inspector on such inspections and the right to obtain an immediate inspection of the mine by MSHA if the representative has "reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of [the Mine Act] or a mandatory health or safety standard exists, or an imminent danger exists." Id. § 813(g)(1). The miner representative also enjoys other rights under the Mine Act. See id. § 819(b) (representative receives "copy of any order, citation, notice, or decision required by [the Mine Act]"); id. §§ 815(d), 817(e) (may contest issuance, modification, or termination of an order); id. § 813(f) (representative may participate in pre- or post-inspection conferences). Under the Mine Act, a miner representative may be a nonemployee of the mine being inspected. Utah Power & Light Co. v. Secretary of Labor, 897 F.2d 447, 450 (10th Cir.1990) (interpreting § 813(f)).

Thunder Basin operates a large coal mine with a nonunion work force. Certain of Thunder Basin's employees, exercising their rights under the Mine Act, designated two nonemployees to be their miner representatives. 1 These nonemployees of the mine were employees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Thunder Basin alleges that designation of the UMWA employees as miner representatives is an abuse of 30 C.F.R. pt. 40 because it is nothing more than a calculated attempt to forward the UMWA's efforts to unionize plaintiff's mine. Thunder Basin argues that requiring it to allow the UMWA employees access to its property and records in connection with an inspection violates its rights under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. § 141, et seq., to exclude union employees from access to Thunder Basin's records and property. It further argues that its constitutional due process rights would be violated if it is forced to risk substantial penalties before the merits of its legal arguments are heard.


Whether a district court has subject matter jurisdiction is subject to de novo review. See City of Chanute, Kan. v. Williams Natural Gas Co., 955 F.2d 641, 658 (10th Cir.1992).

The federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See, e.g., Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545, 547-48, 109 S.Ct. 2003, 2005-06, 104 L.Ed.2d 593 (1989); City of Tacoma v. Taxpayers, 357 U.S. 320, 336, 78 S.Ct. 1209, 1218-19, 2 L.Ed.2d 1345 (1958). Congress may grant review of actions taken under a specific statute to an administrative agency, rather than to federal district courts. See Whitney Nat'l Bank v. Bank of New Orleans & Trust Co., 379 U.S. 411, 419-20, 85 S.Ct. 551, 557, 13 L.Ed.2d 386 (1965). "Whether and to what extent a particular statute precludes judicial review is determined not only from its express language, but also from the structure of the statutory scheme, its objectives, its legislative history, and the nature of the administrative action involved." Block v. Community Nutrition Inst., 467 U.S. 340, 345, 104 S.Ct. 2450, 2453-54, 81 L.Ed.2d 270 (1984). Specifically in context of the Mine Act we have held that

a legislative intent that district courts are not to exercise jurisdiction over particular matters may be implied by the context of an entire legislative scheme and that clear and convincing evidence of a legislative intent that district courts should not exercise jurisdiction over particular matters is sufficient to bar such jurisdiction, especially where other avenues of review are available.

American Coal Co. v. United States Dep't of Labor, Mine Safety & Health Admin., 639 F.2d 659, 662 (10th Cir.1981) (citing with approval holding in Bituminous Coal Operators' Ass'n v. Marshall, 82 F.R.D. 350, 352 (D.D.C.1979)) (emphasis in original).

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The Mine Act provides an extensive review process for challenges to actions taken under the Act. The usual procedure when a company refuses to comply with 30 C.F.R. pt. 40 is that it receives a citation, see 30 U.S.C. § 814(a), then an order, see id. § 814(b), and a proposed assessment of penalty, see id. §§ 815(a), 820. A citation, order, or proposed assessment of penalty may be contested before an administrative law judge (ALJ), id. § 815(a), (d), and thereafter appealed to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (the Commission) for its discretionary review. Id. § 823(d)(2)(A)(i). After exhausting these administrative remedies, the Mine Act allows appeal of the Commission's final decision to a United States court of appeals whose factual review is limited to the administrative record. 2 Id. § 816(a)(1).

Thunder Basin, apparently to avoid a citation, order, and proposed assessment of penalty, filed a complaint in federal district court seeking an injunction. The district court granted a preliminary injunction preventing defendants from enforcing 30 C.F.R. pt. 40. 3 The district court found that the administrative review provided by the Mine Act was unnecessary in the instant case; that the agency has no special expertise to determine the alleged conflict between LMRA and MSHA or plaintiff's constitutional due process claim. See Order Denying Motion to Dismiss at 3-4, Appendix at 37-38.

This court, in American Coal, held that the Mine Act grants district courts subject matter jurisdiction in only the limited circumstances enumerated in 30 U.S.C. §§ 818, 820, and that actions taken under the Act should be challenged initially before the administrative agency in accordance with the administrative review procedures outlined in 30 U.S.C. § 816. See 639 F.2d at 660-62; accord Council of S. Mountains, Inc. v. Donovan, 516 F.Supp. 955, 959 (D.D.C.1981); United States Steel Corp. v. Marshall, 471 F.Supp. 438 (W.D.Pa.1979); Bituminous Coal Operators' Ass'n v. Marshall, 82 F.R.D. at 352-54. We based our holding on Congress' clear intent as evidenced by both the plain language of the Mine Act as a whole and the Act's legislative history. 639 F.2d at 660. We reaffirm that holding today.

The district court's view, allowing subject matter jurisdiction of Mine Act claims alleging constitutional violations and statutory conflict, finds support in Southern Ohio Coal Co. v. Donovan, 774 F.2d 693, 700 (6th Cir.1985), amended, 781 F.2d 57 (6th Cir.1986). Accord Zeigler Coal Co. v. Marshall, 502 F.Supp. 1326, 1329-30 (S.D.Ill.1980) (claim that § 815(c) violates plaintiff's constitutional due process rights may be determined by district court). In

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Southern Ohio, the Sixth Circuit held that district courts have jurisdiction to determine constitutionality of Mine Act rules and procedures, stating three reasons: (1) the Mine Act does not expressly deny district courts jurisdiction, 774 F.2d at 700; (2) "[q]uestions concerning the constitutionality of rules or statutes ... are not the type of questions that are within an agency's domain of expertise," and therefore the purpose for requiring initial review by the administrative agency is not served, id.; and (3) there is a "distinction between claims arising under an act and claims concerning the act itself," id.

This court rejected the first of Southern Ohio's justifications in American Coal. See 639 F.2d at 661-62. As to the others, we note that the Mine Act, in granting jurisdiction to ALJs, the Commission, and the courts of appeals, does not limit the bases upon which a party may challenge a citation, order or proposed assessment; the Act does not distinguish between challenges to orders based on constitutional grounds or conflict with other statutes and challenges based on misapplication of the Act itself. The Commission has demonstrated that it will consider constitutional challenges to the Mine Act. E.g., Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety & Health...

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