Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

The consumer product safety community is rarely provided guidance by federal court decisions. On Tuesday, however, Judge R. Brooke Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Colorado issued an opinion in the never-ending saga of Zen Magnets, LLC v. CPSC.

Ultimately, the court held that Zen Magnets’ due process rights were violated because the company was denied a fair and impartial tribunal in its appeal of an Administrative Law Judge’s Initial Decision and Order. Judge Jackson remanded the case to the Commission for a re-hearing without Commissioner Bob Adler’s participation. The purported violation stems from Commissioner Adler’s comments in the course of a rulemaking for magnet sets that raised a question of his impartiality with respect to the enforcement action against Zen Magnets.

Zen Magnets’ Founder, Shihan Qu, was quick to announce the victory, and it may ultimately be a victory for Zen Magnets. However, for the most part, Judge Jackson’s decision is actually a substantive victory for the Commission with respect to the agency’s authority to declare products substantial product hazards and order mandatory recalls. Continue Reading CPSC’s Zen Magnets Mandatory Recall Reversed: A Mixed District Court Decision Gives Zen Magnets a New Life and the CPSC Favorable Precedent for Mandatory Recalls

Yesterday, President Donald Trump nominated Peter Feldman to fill the fifth and final spot as Commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The nomination is to fill the vacancy left by past Commissioner Joe Mohorovic, who resigned from the Commission in October 2017.  If confirmed, Feldman’s term would expire on October 26, 2019, however it would be expected that President Trump would re-nominate Feldman for an additional seven year term in the future. Continue Reading President Trump Nominates Peter Feldman as CPSC Commissioner Signaling First Republican Majority at Commission Since 2006

Yesterday the U.S. Senate confirmed Dana Baiocco (pronounced “Bee Awe Co”) as a Commissioner for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission with a term that runs through October of 2024. The confirmation took over eight months from Baiocco’s initial nomination last September and came over sixteen months into the Trump administration. Baiocco’s confirmation signals the shift to an eventual Republican majority at the CPSC for the first time since 2006.

Baiocco, a Republican, is replacing Democratic Commissioner Marti Robinson whose term expired in October of 2017. Robinson has remained on the Commission in a hold-over year but will roll off once Baiocco is sworn in as a Commissioner.

Once Baiocco is sworn in, the CPSC will be balanced equally with two Republicans and two Democrats. The Republicans will be Baiocco and Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle. The two Democrats will be Commissioner, and former Chairman, Elliot Kaye and Commissioner Bob Adler.

The Senate is also still considering President Trump’s nomination of Acting Chairman Buerkle for the permanent Chairman position and a second term as Commissioner. Because Buerkle’s nomination has been pending since last July and she has been in the minority as Acting Chairman since last February, there has been growing unrest among and mounting pressure from major industry groups to swiftly push her nomination through the Senate.

The fifth Commissioner position, which became vacant after the departure of former Commissioner Joe Mohorovic last October, still remains open. President Trump is expected to nominate a new Republican Commissioner to fill this position soon. Once the fifth Commissioner is confirmed, the agency will have a Republican majority for the first time during Buerkle’s tenure as Chairman.

The CPSC issued a press release about Baiocco’s confirmation in which Acting Chairman Buerkle said “Ms. Baiocco brings to the Commission strategic experience in product safety, extensive knowledge of public policy with consumer products and a deep understanding of how companies can be proactive in improving the safety of their products.”

Baiocco also included a statement in the CPSC’s press release, stating:

I am honored to be joining an agency with an enduring and proud legacy of protecting consumers. At a time of ever more complex and technically advanced products coming to market, I look forward to working with the leadership of Acting Chairman Buerkle and the Commission to meet emerging challenges in product safety as well as ensuring that CPSC’s core mission of protecting the public is done in the most responsive manner.”

Anticipating Baiocco’s confirmation, Commissioner Robinson sent an agency wide email on Monday afternoon saying thank you to CPSC staff. Notably, the email did not say goodbye and, in her final blog post, she closed by saying: “Although my term as CPSC Commissioner is now coming to a close, I am not done advocating for safe consumer products. I look forward to continuing this conversation about safety and working with all stakeholders in the future.”

On Friday, February 16, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) announced that it had voted 3-1 (along party lines) to authorize CPSC staff to file an administrative complaint against Britax Child Safety, Inc., (“Britax”) a global manufacturer of car seats, strollers, and other juvenile products. In its Complaint, CPSC alleges certain models of Britax’s B.O.B. jogging strollers contain a design defect which results in stroller wheel detachments.  The Complaint seeks an order finding that the strollers present a substantial product hazard and directing Britax take action to recall the products, among other things.

One aspect of this case that’s especially noteworthy is that it was opposed by Republican Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle, who is President Trump’s nominee for permanent Chairman. The three Commissioners who voted affirmatively are all Democratic Commissioners who, as a supermajority, still have control over many areas of the agency over one year into the Trump administration.

As we have written about previously, the Democratic Commissioners will continue to hold a majority until the confirmation of Republican Commissioner nominee Dana Baiocco. Of course, it is difficult to say how the composition of the Commission could have shaped the outcome of this vote, considering that the Zen Magnets litigation was only possible because a Republican Commissioner voted in favor of authorizing that Complaint while the Commission was composed of two Republicans and two Democrats in 2012. Continue Reading CPSC Sues Britax over Stroller Wheel Detachments

With Congress back in session, on January 8th President Trump was swift to re-nominate Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle to be the permanent Chairman of the CPSC, along with a nomination for a second term as a Commissioner.  President Trump also re-nominated Dana Baiocco to be a Commissioner.

As we previously wrote, Chairman Buerkle was nominated by President Trump in in July of last year. After going through a Senate confirmation hearing in September that was contentious at times, Buerkle was approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for confirmation by the full Senate. Similarly, Ms. Baiocco was also awaiting full Senate confirmation after she was approved by the committee in November.

Both Buerkle and Baiocco were not confirmed by the Senate in December, at which time their nominations were returned to the President under Senate Standing Rule 31 along with almost 100 other nominees. Rule 31 provides that when a nominee is neither confirmed nor rejected prior to the end of the Congressional session, the nomination is returned to the President, and will not be reconsidered by the Senate unless they are re-nominated. Most often at the end of a calendar year, this rule is waived by the Senate. However, waiver of the rule requires unanimous consent, which was not provided for 100 nominees that were pending before the full Senate for confirmation in December.

Both Buerkle and Baiocco must again be approved by the committee. They will then again await full Senate confirmation.

This morning at the CPSC’s public hearing Commissioner Joe Mohorovic announced that he would be resigning from his position as a Commissioner, effective Friday, October 20th. Mohorovic announced that he would be joining the law firm Dentons.

While Acting Chairman Buerkle remains at the helm of the agency, Mohorovic’s absence will mean an unprecedented Democratic 3-1 majority at the Commission with a Minority Chairman. While Mohorovic’s resignation allows President Trump to nominate a third CPSC Commissioner in as many months, it likely will take months to get all three nominees confirmed by the Senate. Continue Reading Breaking: Republican Commissioner Mohorovic Departing the CPSC; Acting Chairman Buerkle Now Sole Republican in 3-1 Democratic Majority

Over the past few weeks, there have been many key goings-on related to the CPSC and its Commissioners.

Chairman Buerkle’s Confirmation Hearing and Committee Vote

First, on September 27, 2017, Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle sat for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. At the beginning of the hearing, Buerkle faced tough questions, particularly from ranking member, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, and subsequent 11 deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, Ms. Buerkle was repeatedly asked to defend her position that the CPSC should not undertake mandatory rulemaking on portable generator emissions. She explained that she believed the EPA has primary jurisdiction over carbon monoxide emissions from portable generators, but by working with industry on a voluntary standard involving an automatic shut-off mechanism within CPSC’s jurisdiction, it was her hope that a solution can be developed by the end of the year. Under CPSA, CPSC is required to rely on consensus standards instead of mandatory regulations where they are effective and compliance is widespread.

On October 4, 2017, the Committee cleared Chairman Buerkle’s nomination as Chair by voice vote but presumably because of the portable generators issue, her nomination for a second seven-year term as a CPSC Commissioner was not unanimous and voting followed party lines. Ms. Buerkle’s final hurdle will be a confirmation by the full Senate, which could take place quickly or take a couple of months depending on any further opposition to one or both of her nominations.

Continue Reading CPSC Round-Up: Buerkle Confirmation Hearing, Landmark Civil Penalty Ruling, and Partisan Action on Flame Retardants

Today, President Trump announced his nomination of Dana Baiocco to be a Republican Commissioner on the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If confirmed, Ms. Baiocco would take the seat of Commissioner Robinson, whose term expires on October 26, 2017.

Baiocco is a well-known litigator and partner at Jones Day in Boston, Massachusetts. She is also familiar with the world of product safety. Baiocco’s product safety experience includes extensive product-liability litigation, having defended many major consumer product companies. Ms. Baiocco’s biography can be found here.

The nomination is surely a welcome one for Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle, who is currently operating with a Democratic majority and, until today, uncertainty surrounding when that would change. The nomination signals the White House’s intent to achieve a Republican majority at the CPSC and curtail the agency’s steady push of Democratic initiatives along 3-2 party line votes.

Notably, the nomination comes at the same time the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announced that it will hold a confirmation hearing on September 27, 2017 for Acting Chairman Buerkle to become the permanent Chairman of the CPSC. If both Buerkle and Baiocco are confirmed, the agency would reflect the composition of the current executive and legislative landscape, with a Republican Chairman and a Republican majority of Commissioners.

Below is more information from the White House Press Release:

 

Today, President Donald Trump officially announced his intent to nominate Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle to be the permanent Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Her new seven year term will begin on October 27, 2018 when her first term is set to expire. If confirmed, she will become the permanent Chairman immediately and her new term will end in October 2025.

The official announcement is copied below and was released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary just a few hours ago. Continue Reading President Trump Nominates Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle as Permanent Chairman of the CPSC

On July 25, 2017 at 9:00 AM, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will be hosting a public workshop on Recall Effectiveness. The workshop, to be held in the Hearing Room at CPSC Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, is intended to allow consumer safety professionals and the CPSC staff to discuss ways to improve the effectiveness of recalls. Mintz Levin’s product safety team will be in attendance.

The agenda for the workshop includes: Continue Reading CPSC to Host Recall Effectiveness Workshop; Commissioner Kaye Issues Recall Effectiveness Statement