Darby v. Cisneros, 509 U.S. 137, 11 (1993)

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Cite as: 509 U. S. 137 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

yond those provided by Congress or the agency, the last sentence of 10(c) would make no sense. To adopt respondents' reading would transform 10(c) from a provision designed to " 'remove obstacles to judicial review of agency action,' " Bowen v. Massachusetts, 487 U. S., at 904, quoting Shaughnessy v. Pedreiro, 349 U. S. 48, 51 (1955), into a trap for un-wary litigants. Section 10(c) explicitly requires exhaustion of all intra-agency appeals mandated either by statute or by agency rule; it would be inconsistent with the plain language of 10(c) for courts to require litigants to exhaust optional appeals as well.

III

Recourse to the legislative history of 10(c) is unnecessary in light of the plain meaning of the statutory text. Nevertheless, we consider that history briefly because both sides have spent much of their time arguing about its implications. In its report on the APA, the Senate Judiciary Committee explained that the last sentence of 10(c) was "designed to implement the provisions of section 8(a)." Section 8(a), now codified, as amended, as 5 U. S. C. 557(b), provides, unless the agency requires otherwise, that an initial decision made by a hearing officer "becomes the decision of the agency without further proceedings unless there is an appeal to, or review on motion of, the agency within time provided by rule." The Judiciary Committee explained:

"[A]n agency may permit an examiner to make the initial decision in a case, which becomes the agency's decision in the absence of an appeal to or review by the agency. If there is such review or appeal, the examiner's initial decision becomes inoperative until the agency determines the matter. For that reason this subsection [ 10(c)] permits an agency also to require by rule that, if any party is not satisfied with the initial decision of a subordinate hearing officer, the party must first appeal to the agency (the decision meanwhile being inopera-

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