The National Labor Relations Board says it will continue to press forward in deciding new cases even in the wake of a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that invalidated three recess appointments to the board in January 2012.
A three-judge panel from the federal appeals court ruled on Jan. 25 that President Obama’s recess appointments of Democrats Sharon Block and Richard Griffin and Republican Terence Flynn were invalid because they were not made during a true congressional recess. The ruling, if upheld, could nullify all rulings made since Jan. 4, 2012, the date the president made the appointments.
“Considering the text, history and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception,” the panel concluded. “Because the Board lacked a quorum of three members when it issued its decision in this case on Feb. 8 2012, its decision must be vacated.”
But in a statement, NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce, a Democrat, noted that the court’s ruling applied to only one specific NLRB case, Noel Canning v. NLRB, and similar questions have been raised in “more than a dozen cases pending in other courts of appeals.” Gaston added that the Board “believes that the president’s position in the matter will ultimately be upheld.”
If the different appeals courts split on the issue, it is almost certain that the issue “will have to go to the Supreme Court,” says Nancy Cleland, spokeswoman for the NLRB.
In the meantime, Gaston said, the board will continue to issue decisions.
Nevertheless, pro-business groups cheered the ruling. Geoff Burr, vice president of federal affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors, said, “The president’s decision to bypass the U.S. Senate and appoint pro-union activist members to the NLRB was a political, partisan act that had to be challenged.”
ABC led the coalition that legally challenged the recess appointments. The ruling “will invalidate decisions unlawfully made over the past year by the NLRB and allow them to be heard by an unbiased panel,” Burr said.