3 Things to Know About Eugene Scalia, Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary

President Donald Trump has tapped Eugene Scalia, the son of a judicial icon, to be the new labor secretary.

The nomination comes a week after Alex Acosta announced he was stepping down from the post, effective today.

Scalia—a former solicitor for the Labor Department and now a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn Crutcher—is the second-oldest son of the late Antonin Scalia, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1986 until his death in 2016. 

“I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Gene Scalia as the new Secretary of Labor. Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience,” Trump tweeted, adding, “working with labor and everyone else. He will be a great member of an administration that has done more in the first two and a half years than perhaps any administration in history!”

Trump’s announcement on Twitter came on Acosta’s final day at the Labor Department, as he announced last Friday that his resignation would become effective in a week. The embattled secretary stepped down over questions concerning his handling of the Jeffrey Epstein sexual-abuse case in 2008 when he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. 

If Scalia is confirmed by the Senate, he will replace the acting secretary, Patrick Pizzella, the deputy labor secretary.

Trump already has a backlog of nominees in the Senate, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has already made clear his disapproval of Trump’s choice. 

Sen. Tom Cotton reportedly suggested Scalia to Trump for the position, and the Arkansas Republican praised the selection on Twitter. 

Here are three things to know about Eugene Scalia.    

1. Prior Labor Department Service

President George W. Bush nominated Scalia to be the solicitor of the Labor Department in April 2001. The solicitor is the chief legal officer of the Labor Department with responsibility over litigation and for advising the labor secretary.

But Bush faced a Democrat-controlled Senate during his first two years in office. Some of the Democrats’ opposition to Eugene Scalia stemmed from the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court ruling that settled the contested 2000 presidential election, in which Antonin Scalia was among the justices ruling in Bush’s favor.

There reportedly could have been enough moderate Democrats to confirm Scalia with a majority vote, but then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he would block a vote because Scalia lacked the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. 

Daschle claimed Scalia had a “record of hostility toward worker protections.” Then-Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., said Scalia lacked the “necessary empathy for workers.” 

As a lawyer, Scalia litigated against federal ergonomic regulations pushed by the Clinton administration’s Labor Department in the 1990s. Ergonomics is the study of health and efficiency in the workplace, and the ergonomics regulation was aimed at reducing repetitive stress syndrome. 

After Senate Democrats stalled the nomination, Bush made a recess appointment of Scalia in January 2002, and he held the position, succeeded by Howard Radzley, who was confirmed in December 2003. Recess appointments are temporary, but can last up to two years

2. Prior Administrations’ Experience

If confirmed, or named to the position on an acting basis—as Trump has done with other nominees—this will be the fourth Republican administration Scalia has served in. 

In addition to working for the George W. Bush’s Labor Department, he also worked in George H.W. Bush’s Justice Department and Ronald Reagan’s Education Department. 

After Scalia graduated from the University of Virginia, he took a job as a speechwriter for Education Secretary Bill Bennett in 1985, the year before his father filled a seat on the Supreme Court. 

He held the job until 1987, and went to the University of Chicago Law School. While there, he was the editor-in-chief of the Law Review. 

After law school, Scalia served as a special assistant to George H.W. Bush’s attorney general at the time, William Barr. That was during Barr’s first stint as attorney general, a position Barr held from 1992 to 1993 and now holds again in the Trump administration.

During that time, Scalia received the department’s Edmund J. Randolph Award. Randolph served as attorney general under President George Washington. The award is given for outstanding service in the Justice Department. 

Scalia has recently been a senior fellow of the Administrative Conference of the United States, a federal agency that makes recommendations to Congress and the executive branch on ways to improve the administrative process.

3. Extensive Legal Career

At the firm of Gibson, Dunn Crutcher, which is based in Los Angeles, but which has offices in Washington, Scalia is the co-chairman of the firm’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Group and a member and former co-chairman of the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group. 

The firm lists 18 cases in which Scalia led litigation to successfully reverse federal and state regulations of businesses.

He has been recognized by numerous legal groups and legal publications for his work as a lawyer. He was awarded the Litigation Labor and Employment Lawyer of the Year honor by The Best Lawyers in America group in 2015. Law 360 named him an “Employment MVP” in 2015. The Institutional Investor’s Compliance Reporter magazine named him as Lawyer of the Year in 2006

Bloomberg Businessweek magazine profiled him with the headline “Suing the Government? Call Scalia.”  The Wall Street Journal ran an article about him with the headline “Another Scalia Vexes Regulators.” The National Law Journal recognized Scalia as a “visionary” for his litigation against financial-regulatory agencies. 

The liberal Nation magazine even framed him as a “fearsome litigator.”

His cases include representing UPS and the Ford Motor Co. in separate cases against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, representing Boeing against the National Labor Relations Board, and representing the American Petroleum Institute against the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

He also represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a 2018 case successfully challenging a fiduciary regulation imposed by the Department of Labor—which he soon could be running.

Among Scalia’s cases that got the most media attention was Retail Industry Leaders Association v. Fielder, involving a Maryland state law—commonly referred to as the Walmart law—that would have required the retail chain to spend more money on health care for its employees.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Scalia’s client, the retail federation, in the case.

“It’s widely recognized that employers and employees need more assistance addressing problems with rising health care costs,” Scalia said after the ruling. “Attempts to address the problem are going to require a federal response, not a patchwork of state and local mandates.”

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