On July 20, Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) filed a lawsuit aimed at prohibiting acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) William Perry Pendley from exercising the director powers of the agency. The lawsuit argues that Pendley, who President Trump officially nominated to become director of BLM on June 30, 2020, serves as director in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) and the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
According to the lawsuit, Pendley’s exercise of the director’s powers defies the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires U.S. Senate confirmation of presidential appointments. The lawsuit further argues, however, that Pendley continuing to serve as acting director of the agency after his nomination to become permanent director violates the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). Bullock argues that, “The Federal Vacancies Reform Act bars Presidents from circumventing the Constitution by putting people in charge of federal agencies before they are Senate-confirmed. But that is precisely what has happened here. Pendley’s tenure—and the actions the Bureau has taken, and continues to take during that tenure—violate the law.”
Bullock asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to issue an injunction to block agency actions taken under Pendley. Conner Swanson, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of the Interior told _Bloomberg Law_, “This is a frivolous and politically motivated claim that has no legal standing.” Swanson said that Secretary of the Interior David Benhardt issued an order delegating the power to exercise the authority of BLM director to Pendley.