Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Reich, 510 U.S. 200, 16 (1994)

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Cite as: 510 U. S. 200 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

though the Commission has no particular expertise in construing statutes other than the Mine Act, we conclude that exclusive review before the Commission is appropriate since "agency expertise [could] be brought to bear on" the statutory questions presented here. Whitney Nat. Bank, 379 U. S., at 420.

As for petitioner's constitutional claim, we agree that

"[a]djudication of the constitutionality of congressional enactments has generally been thought beyond the jurisdiction of administrative agencies," Johnson v. Robison, 415 U. S., at 368, quoting Oestereich v. Selective Serv. System Local Bd. No. 11, 393 U. S., at 242 (Harlan, J., concurring in result); accord, Califano v. Sanders, 430 U. S. 99, 109 (1977). This rule is not mandatory, however, and is perhaps of less consequence where, as here, the reviewing body is not the agency itself but an independent Commission established exclusively to adjudicate Mine Act disputes. See Secretary v. Richardson, 3 F. M. S. H. R. C. 8, 18-20 (1981). The Commission has addressed constitutional questions in previous enforcement proceedings.19 Even if this were not the case, however, petitioner's statutory and constitutional claims here can be meaningfully addressed in the Court of Appeals.20

447 (CA10 1990) (construing the Mine Act in light of the NLRA and concluding that a miners' representative may be a nonemployee).

19 See Secretary v. Jim Walter Resources, Inc., 9 F. M. S. H. R. C. 1305, 1306-1307 (1987), aff'd, 920 F. 2d 738 (CA11 1990) (due process); Secretary v. Alabama By-Products Corp., 4 F. M. S. H. R. C. 2128, 2129-2130 (1982) (vagueness); Secretary v. Richardson, 3 F. M. S. H. R. C. 8, 21-28 (1981) (equal protection). Kaiser Coal Corp. v. Secretary, 10 F. M. S. H. R. C. 1165 (1988), does not suggest otherwise, but simply held that declaratory relief from the Commission was unavailable for a question already under consideration in the Court of Appeals.

20 Cf. Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U. S. 749, 762 (1975). This case thus does not present the "serious constitutional question" that would arise if an agency statute were construed to preclude all judicial review of a constitutional claim. See Bowen v. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, 476 U. S. 667, 681, n. 12 (1986).


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