Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs v. Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.,
514 U.S. 122 (1995)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case





No. 93-1783. Argued January 9, 1995-Decided March 21,1995

The Director of the Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs petitioned the Court of Appeals for review of a Benefits Review Board decision that, inter alia, denied Jackie Harcum fulldisability compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). Harcum did not seek review and, while not opposing the Director's pursuit of the action, expressly declined to intervene on his own behalf in response to an inquiry by the court. Acting sua sponte, the court concluded that the Director lacked standing to appeal the benefits denial because she was not "adversely affected or aggrieved" thereby within the meaning of § 21(c) of the Act, 33 U. S. C. § 921(c).

Held: The Director is not "adversely affected or aggrieved" under § 921(c). pp. 125-136.

(a) Section 921(c) does not apply to an agency acting as a regulator or administrator under the statute. This is strongly suggested by the fact that, despite long use of the phrase "adversely affected or aggrieved" as a term of art to designate those who have standing to appeal a federal agency decision, no case has held that an agency, without benefit of specific authorization to appeal, falls within that designation; by the fact that the United States Code's general judicial review provision, 5 U. S. C. § 702, which employs the phrase "adversely affected or aggrieved," specifically excludes agencies from the category of persons covered, § 551(2); and by the clear evidence in the Code that when an agency in its governmental capacity is meant to have standing, Congress says so, see, e. g., 29 U. S. C. §§ 660(a) and (b). While the text of a particular statute could make clear that "adversely affected or aggrieved" is being used in a peculiar sense, the Director points to no such text in the LHWCA. Pp. 125-130.

(b) Neither of the categories of interest asserted by the Director demonstrates that "adversely affected or aggrieved" in this statute must have an extraordinary meaning. The Director's interest in ensuring adequate payments to claimants is insufficient. Agencies do not automatically have standing to sue for actions that frustrate the purposes


of their statutes; absent some clear and distinctive responsibility conferred upon the agency, an "adversely affected or aggrieved" judicial review provision leaves private interests (even those favored by public policy) to be vindicated by private parties. Heckman v. United States, 224 U. S. 413; Moe v. Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Flathead Reservation, 425 U. S. 463; Pasadena City Ed. of Ed. v. Spangler, 427 U. S. 424; and General Telephone Co. of Northwest v. EEOC, 446 U. S. 318, distinguished. Also insufficient is the Director's asserted interest in fulfilling important administrative and enforcement responsibilities. She fails to identify any specific statutory duties that an erroneous Board ruling interferes with, reciting instead conjectural harms to abstract and remote concerns. Pp. 130-136.

8 F.3d 175, affirmed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and STEVENS, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, THOMAS, and BREYER, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 136.

Beth S. Brinkmann argued the cause for petitioner. With her on the briefs were Solicitor General Days, Deputy Solicitor General Wallace, Allen H. Feldman, Steven J. Mandel, and Mark S. Flynn.

Lawrence P. Postol argued the cause for respondents.

With him on the brief was James M. Mesnard. *

JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question before us in this case is whether the Director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs in the United States Department of Labor has standing under § 21(c) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA or Act), 44 Stat. 1424, as amended, 33 U. S. C. § 901 et seq., to seek judicial review of decisions by the Benefits Review Board that in the Director's view deny claimants compensation to which they are entitled.

*Charles T. Carroll, Jr., Thomas D. Wilcox, and Dennis J. Lindsay filed a brief for the National Association of Waterfront Employers et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.

Full Text of Opinion

Primary Holding

Director of OWCP lacks standing under LHWCA to seek judicial review of a Benefits Review Board decision denying benefits to a claimant.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.