D.C. Circuit reverses district court ruling that blocked Trump’s civil service executive orders

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision that blocked provisions of President Donald Trump’s (R) three civil service executive orders.
President Trump issued the civil service executive orders (E.O. 13837, E.O. 13836, and E.O.13839) in May 2018. The orders include proposals aimed at facilitating the removal of poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures.
The judges held that the lower court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the executive orders and that the plaintiffs should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and sixteen other federal labor unions challenged the executive orders in four consolidated lawsuits. The unions argued that the president does not have the authority to issue executive orders impacting labor relations; that the executive orders violate the Constitution’s Take Care Clause and the First Amendment right to freedom of association; and that the executive orders violate provisions of the FSLMRS.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held in August 2018 that the district court had jurisdiction over the case. Jackson upheld the president’s authority to issue executive orders in the field of labor relations, but enjoined Trump administration officials from implementing nine provisions of the executive orders that she claimed unlawfully restricted the use of union official time in violation of the FSLMRS.
The D.C. Circuit panel reversed Jackson’s ruling, stating that “the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The unions must pursue their claims through the scheme established by the Statute, which provides for administrative review by the FLRA followed by judicial review in the courts of appeals.”
Should the plaintiffs choose to appeal the decision, they can seek a rehearing before the full D.C. Circuit or appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.
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