Possible limits on ATF "letter rulings"
Background: agencies are supposed to follow detailed rules when issuing a "regulation": publish a proposal in the Federal Register, receive public comment, then publish a final rule with preamble answering the major comments. Plus comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act, Regulatory Reform Act, etc..
They also issue informal rulings in specific cases, sometimes by letter. ATF technical issues rulings all the time -- this device is or is not a firearm or machinegun, etc.. In practice since these have internal precedent, they can be cited in future letter rulings. (Or as more than one person has found out, they can be completely changed, perhaps on a personal or arbitrary basis). They aren't opened for public comment, usually aren't cleared by any high official, and don't have to comply with the various reg. statutes.
The White House and OMB have started cracking down on these. Here's Exec Office of the President's guidance. Here's an Executive Order. And here's OMB instructions. (all are pdf) As I read them, they include letter rulings within some requirements of an earlier EO, and require that significant rulings (rather narrowly defined) be posted on the web with opportunity for comment.
Rule of law in my America?
Posted by: Jim W at May 21, 2008 05:12 PM
Good. For those of us who do a bit of Administrative Procedure Act work, it is high damned time somebody stopped this out of control practice.
Posted by: Letalis Maximus, Esq. at May 21, 2008 08:17 PM
And they will pay as much attention to those "orders" and "instuctions" as they do to court ruling s they don't like.
Posted by: emdfl at May 22, 2008 04:41 AM
Even under the best conditions it's unelected bureaucrats making law. Instead of "hating us for our freedoms', the terrorist nations are laughing at a wimpy nation that lets itself get pushed around by a bunch of soft fat prozac head appointees.
There's a whole lot more of us than there are of them!
Posted by: The Mechanic at May 22, 2008 04:48 PM
I always thought their letter rulings were due to being a tax agency under the Treasury Dept. Now that they are under Justice, so they still have the same authority?
Posted by: ParatrooperJJ at May 23, 2008 07:46 AM