General Counsel's Office

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The Surface Transportation Board (STB) Office of the General Counsel (OGC) responds to questions on a variety of legal issues. However, our primary mission is two-fold: to defend the STB's decisions in court and to assess the defensibility of agency decisions that might be challenged in court. Unlike most Federal agencies, the STB has independent litigating authority (49 U.S.C. 703d). Under the Hobbs Act (28 U.S.C. 2323), when an STB order or decision is challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals, both the STB (represented by the agency's own attorneys) and the United States (represented by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys) must be named as "respondents" (defendants), and both have authority to appear in court in such cases. STB and DOJ attorneys, in most cases, jointly defend the agency's decisions, with the STB's attorneys preparing written briefs (in consultation with DOJ attorneys) and presenting oral arguments on behalf of the Federal Government.

In performing defensibility assessments, OGC attorneys meet with other STB staff to discuss cases before draft decisions are prepared. Defensibility assessments are key to issuing sound decisions that are less likely to be challenged and, if challenged, are more likely to be upheld.