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Latest News - August 2011

August 18, 2011
Oversight Committee responds to NLRB’s refusal to comply with subpoena
Source: Charleston Regional Business Journal
By: Matt Tomsic

The National Labor Relations Board’s refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena could lead to the disbarment of the NLRB attorneys working on the case against the Boeing Co., House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa wrote in a letter to the labor agency.

“I trust you stand ready to accept the severe consequences of your decision to avoid compliance with the subpoena,” Issa, R-Calif., wrote.

Issa and NLRB have been haggling over the committee’s requests for documentation in the board’s case against the Boeing Co. over its final assembly and delivery plant in North Charleston. The NLRB issued the complaint against Boeing in April, accusing the aerospace giant of opening the S.C. plant to retaliate for worker strikes at its Puget Sound plant in Everett, Wash.

Acting general counsel Lafe Solomon has argued that releasing the requested documents could affect the ongoing hearings in Seattle. He’s also cited attorney-client privilege and a ruling by an NLRB administrative court judge to deny the release of similar documents to Boeing earlier in the case.

Issa wrote that privileged matters disclosed to a congressional committee are not assumed to be public and that if they are public, the disclosure might not affect the outcome of the case. He also said attorney-client privilege does not apply to Congress, citing a federal court ruling.

Issa also calls the argument based on the judge’s ruling “absurd.”

“Quite simply, the idea that the investigative powers of Congress are bound by nonconstitutional, common-law rules of the judiciary conflicts with the separation of powers doctrine as well as the constitutional authority granted to each house of Congress to determine its own rules,” Issa wrote. “As I have previously articulated, the NLRB has no valid basis for continuing to withhold the documents the committee has requested.”

Nancy Cleeland, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, said the board is not commenting beyond its letter sent Aug. 12 to the oversight committee. Cleeland said the labor relations board hopes the two parties can reach an agreement about the documents.

In its Aug. 12 letter, Solomon wrote that the NLRB has provided the committee with more than 1,500 pages of documents in the Boeing case.

“We remain concerned, however, that the subpoena requires the agency to search voluminous documents, many of which will necessarily include attorney work product, trial strategy and confidential submissions by the parties or implicate other confidentiality interest,” Solomon wrote.

“Indeed, given the nature of your search request, the great majority of documents that will be captured by this search will likely contain material that cannot be disclosed consistent with preserving the integrity of the agency’s ongoing law enforcement proceeding and ensuring fundamental fairness to the parties to that proceeding,” Solomon wrote.



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