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General Law Duties and Responsibilities

General Law Division Responsibilities

Under the executive direction of the Chief Counsel, the General Law Division staff provides a broad spectrum of advice and legal support on general law matters affecting the policies and programs of PHMSA and the manner in which PHMSA program offices perform their functions. 

These include: advising on powers and duties of agency officials, the use of appropriated funds and other fiscal law issues, acquisition and use of goods and services, and personnel and employment-related issues.

In addition, the Division advises and supports the Chief Counsel on a diverse range of regulatory and legislative issues, assists with interpretation, guidance and advice on environmental matters, prepares and implements the usage of written legal products for use throughout the agency, and serves as the Agency Counsel on requests for employee testimony.

Further, the Division interprets and implements the requirements of civil rights-related statutes and represents the agency in cases involving allegations of discrimination in PHMSA employment matters, particularly before the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The General Law Division is the Chief Counsel's point of contact for review of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and documents as may be required by agency personnel and responsible for developing rules and guidance to process FOIA requests in conformity with applicable laws, regulations and executive orders.

Employee Testimony

Frequently, PHMSA employees are contacted by attorneys or other interested parties regarding the possibility of providing testimony in a legal proceeding between private litigants. In accordance with Department of Transportation Regulations, 49 CFR, Part 9 there is a general prohibition against PHSMA employees being called as witnesses to provide testimony or records, with exceptions only permitted under narrow and specific circumstances. Additionally, per 49 CFR, Part 9.9(d), PHMSA employees are prohibited from testifying at trial and testimony is limited to a single deposition, affidavit or set of interrogatories.

The General Law Division serves as the Agency Counsel for all requests for testimony or productions of records requested under 49 CFR, Part 9. For cases between private litigants, the Division attorneys highly encourage all parties interested in the testimony of a PHMSA employee, including counsel, to review the applicable regulations prior to making a request. If you feel your particular situation qualifies as an exception to the general prohibition, please submit a formal request that conforms to the regulations. You may submit your written request to:

U.S. DOT/PHMSA
Agency Counsel
Office of Chief Counsel
East Building, 2nd Floor
Mail Stop: E26-105
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

If you have questions regarding the nature of your case or whether or not a request for testimony or records is likely to be approved before submission, please feel free to contact the General Law Division at 202-366-4400.

Important: requests for testimony under 49 CFR, Part 9, MUST be submitted in writing and MUST strictly adhere to the requirements of 49 CFR, Part 9.13 and 9.15, including the time as to when a request may be considered.  The Agency Counsel can only review and process written requests for testimony or records that are in strict compliance with the applicable regulation,  therefore, requests that are not in compliance with the regulations and do not contain the required information are subject to immediate denial or will be returned without review, at the discretion of the Agency Counsel.

Updated: Friday, July 28, 2017