U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number


2016 Term

Oral Argument Date

February 21, 2017


Questions Presented

1. Whether a district court’s decision to quash or enforce an EEOC subpoena should be reviewed de novo, which only the Ninth Circuit does, or should be reviewed deferentially, which eight other circuits do, consistent with this Court’s precedents concerning the choice of standards of review.

2. Whether the Ninth Circuit’s decision to enforce an EEOC subpoena, depending upon a notion of relevance so broad that it effectively abrogates statutory limits on the EEOC’s investigative powers, conflicts with EEOC v. Shell Oil, 466 U.S. 54 (1984) and the holdings of at least three other circuits.

Case Updates

U.S. Supreme Court unanimously adopts abuse-of-discretion review for district court

April 03, 2017

The Supreme Court unanimously held that a district court’s decision whether to enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena should be reviewed for abuse of discretion, not de novo. The Court explained that the longstanding practice of the court of appeals is to review a district court’s decision to enforce or quash an administrative subpoena for abuse of discretion, and basic principles of institutional capacity counsel in favor of deferential review.

U.S. Chamber urges Supreme Court to grant broad defer to trial judges in determining whether an EEOC subpoena is relevant or burdensome

November 21, 2016

The U.S. Chamber urged the Supreme Court to defer to trial judges when reviewing a decision not to enforce an EEOC subpoena. The brief urged the Court to hold that, as such decisions turn heavily on factual determinations, the correct standard of review is clear error, not de novo. The brief explained that a deferential standard of review is most efficient in the context of EEOC subpoena enforcement actions because district courts are closest to the factual and evidentiary issues at play and can readily appreciate the full weight of the evidence through hearings, witness testimony, and direct access to the parties. Conversely, a de novo standard encourages appeals and discourages informal resolution of non-merits issues, dragging out an already lengthy EEOC investigation process at the expense of Title VII’s aims of prompt investigation and resolution of discrimination claims.

The Chamber filed the brief jointly with the Equal Employment Advisory Council and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Rae T. Vann and Michael P. Bracken of NT Lakis, LLP served as counsel for the amici.

Case Documents