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United States v. Stauffer Chem. Co.

Citation: 14 ELR 20064
No. No. 82-1448, 464 U.S. 165/20 ERC 1257/(U.S., 01/10/1984) Aff'd

The Court rules that collateral estoppel bars the United States from arguing in the Sixth Circuit that the Clean Air Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to use private inspectors when the United States had already argued and lost the issue against the same defendant in the Tenth Circuit. The Court rules that defensive collateral estoppel is appropriate where there is mutuality of parties, an identical issue, and no change in controlling facts or legal principles. The Court notes there is an exception where unmixed questions of law are at issue in actions with unrelated subject matter, but rules that the exception does not apply, since the circumstances in the two cases are virtually identical. The Court rejects the government's arguments that applying collateral estoppel will freeze the development of the law and that it will lead to inequitable administration of the law.

Justice White, concurring in the result, would limit the application of collateral estoppel to circuits that have not adopted a position on the merits of the question.

[The decision below is published at 12 ELR 20810 — Ed.]

Counsel for Petitioners
Rex E. Lee, Solicitor General; Joshua I. Schwartz
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2201

Mary L. Walker, Acting Ass't Attorney General; Dirk D. Snel, Judson W. Starr, Kathleen P. Dewey
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2810

A. James Barnes, General Counsel; Christopher C. Herman
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 382-7630

Counsel for Respondent
Charles F. Lettow, Katherine L. Rhyne, John A. Menke
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
1752 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 728-2748