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Division of Mine Safety and Health (MSH)

MISSION AND FUNCTION: The Division of Mine Safety and Health provides legal services to the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health in connection with the development and enforcement of mandatory safety and health standards applicable to mining and mine construction activity under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. The Division represents the Secretary of Labor in administrative hearings, civil trials and appellate litigation arising under the Act. It also approves criminal cases for submission to the Department of Justice or the United States Attorney and assists in the prosecution as appropriate.

STATUTE: The Division provides legal services to assist the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in its administration and enforcement of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (the Mine Act). The first priority and concern of the Mine Act is the health and safety of the mining industry's most precious resource---the miner. Miners have the right to obtain an inspection of the mine if there are reasonable grounds to believe that an imminent danger or violation of the Act or standard exists. They have the right to accompany MSHA inspectors during mine inspections with no loss of pay. The Mine Act also provides protection for miners from discrimination based upon the exercise of rights granted by the statute. The Mine Act governs both coal and non-coal industries and requires MSHA to conduct at least four complete inspections of all underground mines every year and at least two complete inspections of all surface mines every year. Civil penalties must be assessed for all violations of the Mine Act.

DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES: Appellate Attorneys handle virtually all cases in the United States Court of Appeals arising under the Mine Act. The appellate attorneys are responsible for each phase of an appeal from the initial review of the record and transcripts, recommendations to the client on whether to appeal a case, drafting and filing all briefs and court documents, and appearing in oral arguments. In addition, appellate attorneys handle all appeals before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC).

Trial Attorneys litigate select cases involving important policy or legal issues arising under the Mine Act. They also coordinate with and provide substantive policy guidance to attorneys in the Regional Solicitor's offices involved in litigation of Mine Act cases before FMSHRC Administrative Law Judges. Trial attorneys also serve as the primary contact for procedural and substantive litigation policy guidance under the Mine Act. In addition, they provide on-site legal advice during major accident investigations and participate in the development and review of all major accident reports. Trial attorneys also provide training and legal oversight to Conference and Litigation Representatives, specially trained lay representatives who handle certain cases before the FMSHRC.

Attorneys in the Standards and Legal Advice Section provide legal advice on the development of standards and regulations as well as jurisdictional and policy issues under the Mine Act. They draft and review major policy documents and compliance assistance materials. In addition, they represent MSHA in public hearings, and draft and review testimony for and responses to questions from Congressional hearings. They also provide legal advice and counsel concerning appropriations law, information disclosure, procurement, ethics, administrative law, legislation, and information collection and dissemination requirements.

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