How do you appeal a penalty from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) for perceived violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)? Companies and individuals rarely challenge the BIS, preferring to negotiate a settlement. The courts get involved generally only if there are criminal indictments. But there is a mechanism to challenge the BIS when it imposes civil penalties, and everyone, including the Bureau of Industry, agreed that would be done by appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the DC Circuit). You may not have heard of the DC Circuit, but it is one of our nation’s most influential courts because it directly decides appeals from federal agencies, skipping an appellant’s need to first go through a federal district court.
That arrangement/hierarch, however, was revised in Micei International vs. Department of Commerce, 613 F3d 1147 (C.A.D.C. 2010). The BIS imposed on Micei a $125,000 fine and a five-year suspension of export privileges, and, following the BIS’s instructions, Micei appealed to the DC Circuit. Apparently on its initiative, the DC Circuit decided that, because of the Export Administration Regulations convoluted history and questionable legitimacy (and thanks to a recent amendment to the regulations that this case triggered), it had no jurisdiction over the appeal, and transferred the case to the federal district court. Why is this important? Well, there is the issue of finality. Having a district court decide a case adds another level of adjudication and thereby increases the amount of time and money it will take to finally decide an export penalty case.
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