Waxman v. Evans
Civil Action No. 01-04530 (LGB) (AJWx) (2001)

  • Congressman Waxman and 15 other Congressmen wrote a letter to the Secretary of Commerce (Evans), asking for some detailed data from the 2000 census.
    • They asked for the information pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 2954, also known as the "seven member rule."
      • 2954 says that, "An Executive agency, on request of the Committee on Government Operations of the House of Representatives, or of any seven members thereof...shall submit any information requested of it relating to any matter within the jurisdiction of the committee."
    • The Committee wanted the 'raw' data versus the 'adjusted' data. That makes a big difference in how the Congressional districts are drawn.
  • Evans denied the request. Waxman sued to compel Evans to produce the data.
  • The Trial Court found for Waxman in summary judgment.
    • The Trial Court noted that the language of 2954 was non-discretionary. It specifically said shall, which is a mandatory command.
      • The Court noted that the principal definition of shall in Black's Law Dictionary is: "Has a duty to; more broadly, is required to."
      • The Court also looked to case law and found numerous cases where shall was interpreted to be mandatory.
        • Alternately, the word may often denotes optional duties.
    • The Court noted that the language of is broad, to encompass any matter within the jurisdiction of the committee.
      • The Court found the census data was with the committee's jurisdiction.
      • Evans unsuccessfully argued that 2954 should be construed narrowly to only apply to finished reports, not to data internal to the Agency.
      • The Court noted that if the Statute was interpreted narrowly, the phrase "in the jurisdiction of this committee" would lose meaning and would be surplus.
        • That's contrary to the rule against surplusages.
    • The Court looked to the legislative history and found it was consistent with the Statute's plain meaning.
      • Again, Evans unsuccessfully argued that the legislative history implied that 2954 only applied to finished reports.
        • Evans made a decent argument, but the Court found that the legislative history wasn't so one-sided that it should overturn a plain language meaning.
    • The Court found that Waxman and the other Congressmen had the standing to sue, and that the Court had the ability to compel the Dept. of Commerce to act based on the Administrative Procedures Act.
      • Evans unsuccessfully argued that the Court should not interfere in a Legislative vs. Executive Branch argument.
      • The rule of Constitutional avoidance argues that if there are two ways to interpret a Statute, interpret it the way that doesn't raise Constitutional questions.
    • Evans unsuccessfully argued that the title of the Statute included the word 'reports', and therefore should be interpreted as only encompassing finished reports.
    • Evans unsuccessfully argued that allowing 7 minority Senators to get any information they wanted without a subpoena, thereby changing the 'balance of power', it would be a major change in how government operates and therefore needs to be more explicitly stated.
      • The courts should not read major changes in Statutes that aren't explicitly stated.
        • The courts should not look for elephants in mouseholes...