U.S. Supreme Court: NLRB Must Have 3 Members to Rule

So, what are we going to do about the over-500 - count 'em - NLRB decisions issued by the 2-member panels??

The NLRB normally has 5 members. At the end of 2007, the Board had 4 members, and anticipated the terms of 2 recess appointments would expire shortly. So, the 4 members "delegated" its powers to a three-member panel.

Then, one of the panel members left because his term expired. That left just two - a quorum of the panel of three...right?

Well no. Several litigants challenged the Board's power to function as a two member panel. The Courts of Appeals split on the issue. The Supreme Court ruled today that the two-member decisions were improper:

we find that the Board quorum requirement and the three-member delegation clause should not be read as easily surmounted technical obstacles of little to no import. Our reading of the statute gives effect to those pro-visions without rendering any other provision of the statute superfluous: The delegation clause still operates to allow the Board to act in panels of three, and the group quorum provision still operates to allow any panel to issue a decision by only two members if one member is disqualified. Our construction is also consistent with the Board’s longstanding practice with respect to delegee groups. We thus hold that the delegation clause requires that a delegee group maintain a membership of three in order to exercise the delegated authority of the Board.

So, what happens to the 500+ decisions issued by the 2-member panel? We'll see how many of the litigants attempt to challenge them. Or, perhaps the Board, which has been staffed by 4 members since March 2010, will find some way to re-affirm the decisions. We shall see.

The case is New Process Steel LP v. NLRB and the opinion is here.