Regulatory litigation in the United States

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By Michael Quinan, Christian & Barton LLP

In many ways, an American government agency may appear similar to a court, but there are significant differences. There are so many courthouse lawyers today that, even in the same courtroom, many will hardly know each other. However, a small group of administrative lawyers will, in many cases, appear before the same tribunal. Not only will they have intimate familiarity with agency rules, but they will know the people and the specific accepted practices that other lawyers will not find in any rulebook.

By the time a case is tried in court, the parties have exhausted other options. However, Agency cases are bringing about battles on other fronts. While parties dispute a power line certificate, for example, they will also challenge local zoning approvals, environmental permits, and federal energy authorisation. In addition, they will also seek "legislative fixes" and conduct public relations campaigns.

A government agency is charged with protecting the public, not merely the determining the rights of the parties. A private party is well served by aligning its interests with the public interest.

Further to adjudicative powers, many agencies have been delegated legislative authority. This means that they are not strictly bound by the Rules of Evidence.

A convincing case may require qualified expert testimony. In addition, while appeals of agency decisions may be possible, appeal courts give great deference to agency panels. Winning your case at the agency level is highly recommended.

Michael Quinan
Christian & Barton LLP, Richmond, VA, United States
T: +1 804 697 41 00
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Michael J. Quinan is a partner and vice chair of his firm's Energy group. He practices principally in the areas of business litigation, regulatory and administrative law and public utility regulation. Mike is president of the HARPS Foundation (American Youth Harp Ensemble), a performance company that provides conservatory-level music education to students of all ages. He enjoys catching a Washington Nationals' Major League Baseball game with his wife and sons.

Christian & Barton LLP - A general business and civil litigation law firm located in Richmond, Virginia.

published: August 2013


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