Opinion

Trump Pick for Labor Secretary, Eugene Scalia, Is Trying Hard to Appear as Ethical as Possible

Looks like Eugene Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is determined to insulate himself from the ethical debacles continuing to plague the Trump Administration. Scalia, who is President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary, has pledged to recuse himself from cases that would present a conflict of interest.

In a letter to to DOL Agency Official Peter Constantine, Scalia declared that upon his confirmation, he’d resign his position with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and cash out his partnership. He also promised that for a year after that resignation, he wouldn’t participate in any matter involving former clients of the firm.

During his time at the firm, Scalia handled some prominent – and controversial — labor cases. Thanks to Scalia, blackjack dealers at a Las Vegas casino were ordered to share their tips with supervisors, WalMart avoided mandated contributions to employee health plans, UPS disclaimed liability for discriminating against the disabled, and SeaWorld evaded workplace safety regulations for employees working with killer whales. Predictably, Scalia, a major player in management-side labor relation, has faced opposition from labor unions as an appropriate choice to lead the Department of Labor (DOL).

At this point, Scalia appears to be casting a relatively wide net for recusal. His letter included a broad promise:

In addition, I will recuse myself from participation on a case-by-case basis in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I determine that a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would question my impartiality in the matter, unless I am first authorized to participate, pursuant to 5 C.F.R. part 2635, subpart E.

While Eugene Scalia’s letter only mentions imputed conflicts of interests related to conduct of his spouse or children, some have opined that conflicts involving clients of his younger brother, John Scalia – also high-profile lawyer involved in cases before DOL – may pose a problem down the line.

Scalia’s appointment as Labor Secretary won’t be his first stint in government service. He served as the top legal officer at the Department of Labor during the George W. Bush administration, and as special assistant to Attorney General William Barr during his appointment by George H.W. Bush.

[screengrab via Fox Business]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. She is a frequent media contributor, and is Of Counsel to Smedley & Lis, in Woodbury, New Jersey. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos

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