Capeway Roofing Systems, Inc. v. Chao, No. 03-2373.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBoudin
Citation391 F.3d 56
Docket NumberNo. 03-2373.
Decision Date10 December 2004
PartiesCAPEWAY ROOFING SYSTEMS, INC., Petitioner, v. Elaine CHAO, Secretary of Labor, Respondent.

Page 56

391 F.3d 56
CAPEWAY ROOFING SYSTEMS, INC., Petitioner,
v.
Elaine CHAO, Secretary of Labor, Respondent.
No. 03-2373.
United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
Heard August 4, 2004.
Decided December 10, 2004.

Page 57

Richard D. Wayne with whom Brian E. Lewis and Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP were on brief for petitioner.

Ronald J. Gottlieb, United States Department of Labor, Office of Solicitor, with whom Howard M. Radzely, Solicitor of Labor, Joseph M. Woodward, Associate Solicitor for Occupational Safety and Health, and Ann Rosenthal, Counsel for Appellate Litigation, were on brief for respondent.

Before BOUDIN, Chief Judge, SELYA and HOWARD, Circuit Judges.

BOUDIN, Chief Judge.


Capeway Roofing Systems, Inc. ("Capeway"), a roofing contractor in Massachusetts, was fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ("the Commission") for safety violations. It now

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seeks review in this court. 29 U.S.C. § 660(a) (2000). The story is quickly told, reserving details for the discussion of individual claims of error.

On April 24, 2000, two inspectors charged with enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Act ("the Act") visited a site in Weymouth, Massachusetts, where Capeway was constructing roofing on a new firehouse. The firehouse had four roofs: one, high and steeply pitched, over the center of the garage; two wider and somewhat flatter roofs extending over the rest of the garage; and a lower flat roof over the living quarters attached to the garage.1

The inspectors, Peter Barletta and James Holiday, according to their testimony, found that employees were working or walking on all four roofs without hardhats and without physical "fall protection" measures such as warning lines near roof edges. The inspectors interviewed Capeway supervisor Dennis Mello and the job foreman, Manny Araujo, who said they were acting as safety monitors; but (according to Barletta) Mello admitted that he used his own criteria rather than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ("OSHA") requirements for deciding whether to use fall protection gear for the men.

The inspection turned up various other problems — improper scaffolding, lack of training, materials stacked close to the roof edge, and rusty safety equipment. In due course, the agency charged Capeway with nine violations; after an evidentiary hearing, the administrative law judge ("the ALJ") imposed a fine of $117,000, which the Commission upheld on review. In this court, Capeway contests seven of the nine violations, the penalties assessed, and the ALJ's handling of witness sequestration.

On judicial review, the Commission's orders are to be upheld unless "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law," 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) (2000). Fact findings are sustained if supported by substantial evidence. 29 U.S.C. § 660(a). We begin with a central claim of procedural error and then take up the specific citations in dispute one by one.

Sequestration of witnesses. Capeway opens by claiming that in his sequestration rulings the ALJ violated Rule 615 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, made applicable by 29 C.F.R. § 2200.71 (2004). In essence, Rule 615 requires that, upon a party's request, the presiding official exclude witnesses from the room "so that they cannot hear the testimony of other witnesses" (and so tailor their own testimony). There is an exception for an officer or employee designated to represent a party that is "not a natural person." Fed.R.Evid. 615.

At the hearing in this case, Barletta and Holiday testified to the violations, and the OSHA area director, Brenda Gordon, testified about the penalties. Barletta went first and, about halfway through his testimony, agency counsel asked for sequestration of witnesses. Capeway's lawyer objected but the ALJ ordered sequestration, adding that "the compliance officer can stay" — an apparent reference to Holiday — and that any other witnesses had to leave except that "[c]lients can stay here."

When Capeway's lawyer asked that other witnesses for the agency also be sequestered, agency counsel said that Gordon would be the only witness for the agency beside the inspectors, and that she would be testifying about the penalties. The

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ALJ said that she could also stay, and Capeway counsel objected. Gordon and Holiday both stayed in the hearing as did Araujo, who did not testify. The company's only witness was Barry Metzler, Capeway's safety consultant, and it appears that he was sequestered.

In a footnote in its post-hearing memorandum, Capeway said as to the sequestration issue only that Holiday had tailored his testimony "to address the weaknesses" in Barletta's testimony. In his decision, the ALJ replied (also in a footnote) that he refused to strike Holiday's testimony because both Holiday and Gordon could stay under Rule 615 and because Capeway failed "to identify even one instance" where Holiday's testimony was "suspect." On review, the two-member Commission panel found any error as to sequestration to be "harmless."

In this court, Capeway devotes to this issue ten pages of its brief enriched by the usual rhetoric ("fundamental right to a fair trial," "right to due process"). The agency denies that there was any error at all, says that the issue was not properly preserved, and finally says that any error would have been harmless. We think that there probably was an error, although not one of major proportions; that the waiver issue is muddled; and that the error was patently harmless and does not deserve the fuss being made about it.

Whether the agency designated Gordon or Holiday as its representative (it is not clear that the agency formally designated anyone), the bare language of Rule 615 suggests that only one of them should have stayed. Conceivably the agency could argue that Holiday was its representative and that Gordon, although also a witness, was testifying to an unrelated matter; there is a hint that the ALJ may have so viewed the situation. But we will assume arguendo, in the company's favor, that Holiday should have left.

Nevertheless, there is no indication whatever that Capeway was improperly prejudiced. The sequestration rule is concerned primarily with falsification: for example, that the second witness might testify to things he did not see but instead learned from the testimony of the first witness, or that he might alter his testimony to conform to that of the first, thereby strengthening it instead of undercutting it. See Fed.R.Evid. 615 & 1972 advisory committee note.

Capeway makes no effort whatever to show that this occurred. Instead, it argues, with examples, that Holiday "tailored" his testimony by addressing points helpful to the charges against Capeway that Barletta had left out of his testimony. But in the ordinary case this is not improper...

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4 practice notes
  • 'THE' RULE: MODERNIZING THE POTENT, BUT OVERLOOKED, RULE OF WITNESS SEQUESTRATION.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 1, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...of witnesses who may be deemed 'essential to the presentation of [a] party's cause."'). (286.) See Capeway Roofing Sys., Inc. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 59 (1st Cir. 2004) ("[T]he bare language of Rule 615 suggests that only one [designated agent] should have stayed."); United States v. Green, 2......
  • Harry C. Crooker v. Occupational Safety and Health, No. 07-2770.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • August 11, 2008
    ...of the Commission's discretion, or otherwise contrary to law. See 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); see also Capeway Roofing Sys., Inc. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir.2004). As a subsidiary matter, the Commission's factual findings will stand whenever they are "supported by substantial evidence on t......
  • A.C. Castle Constr. Co. v. Acosta, No. 17-1537
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 7, 2018
    ...an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) ; Capeway Roofing Sys., Inc. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir. 2004). With these standards in mind, we turn to the ALJ's precise findings and A.C. Castle's critique of those findings.1. Common Worksit......
  • P. Gioioso & Sons, Inc. v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm'n, No. 10–2418.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • March 28, 2012
    ...preserved on appeal); 29 C.F.R. § 2200.71 (Federal Rules of Evidence applicable to ALJ hearings). See also Capeway Roofing Sys. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 62 (1st Cir.2004) (hearsay objection to statement made to OSHA inspector waived on appeal because it was not made at the hearing). Moreover, ......
3 cases
  • Harry C. Crooker v. Occupational Safety and Health, No. 07-2770.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • August 11, 2008
    ...of the Commission's discretion, or otherwise contrary to law. See 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); see also Capeway Roofing Sys., Inc. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir.2004). As a subsidiary matter, the Commission's factual findings will stand whenever they are "supported by substantial evidence on t......
  • A.C. Castle Constr. Co. v. Acosta, No. 17-1537
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 7, 2018
    ...an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law, 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) ; Capeway Roofing Sys., Inc. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 58 (1st Cir. 2004). With these standards in mind, we turn to the ALJ's precise findings and A.C. Castle's critique of those findings.1. Common Worksit......
  • P. Gioioso & Sons, Inc. v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm'n, No. 10–2418.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • March 28, 2012
    ...preserved on appeal); 29 C.F.R. § 2200.71 (Federal Rules of Evidence applicable to ALJ hearings). See also Capeway Roofing Sys. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 62 (1st Cir.2004) (hearsay objection to statement made to OSHA inspector waived on appeal because it was not made at the hearing). Moreover, ......
1 books & journal articles
  • 'THE' RULE: MODERNIZING THE POTENT, BUT OVERLOOKED, RULE OF WITNESS SEQUESTRATION.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 63 Nbr. 1, October 2021
    • October 1, 2021
    ...of witnesses who may be deemed 'essential to the presentation of [a] party's cause."'). (286.) See Capeway Roofing Sys., Inc. v. Chao, 391 F.3d 56, 59 (1st Cir. 2004) ("[T]he bare language of Rule 615 suggests that only one [designated agent] should have stayed."); United States v. Green, 2......

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