[JURIST] The US Supreme Court on Monday held in McLane v. U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [opinion, PDF] that ” A district court’s decision whether to enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena should be reviewed for abuse of discretion, not de novo.” The Court relied on two factors, one considering the “longstanding practice of the courts of appeals[‘]” review process of administrative subpoenas filed by the EEOC and secondly, “basic principles of institutional capacity counsel in favor of deferential review.” Weighing both, the court found that the appropriate standard was an abuse of discretion standard and vacated and remanded the lower judgment.
Petitioner argued [JURIST report] that the matter should be subject to discretionary review as the EEOC’s investigative authority was limited by the relevance of the charge and not plenary. The petitioner further asserted that it is traditional and common among the appellate courts to grant deferential review for subpoenas and search warrants. Finally, petitioner argued that in these matters, due to the fact and context-intensive nature of the dispute, the district court is in the best position to decide the matter and therefore deserve discretionary review. Respondent in return argued that because the court of appeals found legal error in the district court’s decision, its de novo review was consistent in subpoena enforcement actions. Respondent also argued that this is not an appropriate matter for the court as both parties agreed to de novo standard of review before the panel and the Ninth Circuit commonly applies such review. Furthermore, respondent argued that the Supreme Court should simply affirm the court of appeals decision instead of remanding the matter back to a lower court.