Civil Rights, Labor and Employment Law
The Civil Rights, Labor and Employment Law Division is organized into two sections: the Litigation Section and the Policy, Compliance & Counsel Section. The Litigation Section defends USDA in individual cases and class actions filed pursuant to equal employment opportunity laws, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and other federal statutory and regulatory authorities. The Division litigates actions before the EEOC, MSPB, USDA Administrative Law Judges and provides support to DOJ in Federal district courts. The Policy Section is responsible for providing advice and counsel prior to the request for a hearing in employment matters before EEOC. It also provides legal sufficiency reviews of all Final Agency Decisions issued by the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in program civil rights complaints, including all decisions rendered in the farm and housing loan programs under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The Policy section prepares formal legal opinions on a wide variety of civil rights matters and has the primary responsibility for working with the Office of Adjudication to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and related statutes covering federally-assisted programs.
General Law and Research Division
The Division is responsible for handling on behalf of all USDA agencies the legal work and litigation that arise under the many statutes and regulations that apply generally to all agencies of the Federal Government. These include, but are not limited to, the following: the Federal Tort Claims Act, Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, Federal Advisory Committee Act, federal procurement statutes and regulations, fiscal laws, laws related to federal financial assistance, laws related to homeland security and emergency response, and federal intellectual property statutes. The Division coordinates the provision of assistance to USDA policy officials in drafting and analyzing legislative proposals and amendments, and reviews and coordinates the legal review for USDA in the clearance of legislation and ancillary legislative materials; and drafts and provides technical assistance in the preparation of bills and amendments for the Secretary, members of Congress, Congressional committees, Senate and House Offices of Legislative Counsel, and agencies within USDA. The Division, in coordination with attorneys from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other divisions in OGC, is responsible for presenting USDA's legal position in cases on appeal. The Division's responsibilities include reviewing briefs and advising DOJ in cases affecting USDA programs before the United States Supreme Court, federal circuit courts, and state appellate courts. The Division is also responsible for preparing USDA's official recommendations to DOJ on whether to appeal adverse decisions of various lower courts, or to participate as amicus in Supreme Court or other appellate cases.
International Affairs, Food Assistance, and Farm and Rural Programs
The Division is responsible for the legal advice for the activities supervised by the Under Secretaries for Rural Development; Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services; and Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, and some programs under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). This division works on a wide variety of programs including: the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Foreign Agricultural Service International Trade and Donation Programs, the Federal Crop Insurance Program, the CCC Commodity Programs, and various loan, guaranteed loan and grant programs for Farm Service Agency, Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Rural Utilities Service.
Legal Internship Opportunities
The Office of the General Counsel has unpaid legal internships available throughout the year for law students in D.C. and in our field offices across the country. Please Angela Ervin atfor additional details.
Marketing, Regulatory and Food Safety Programs
The Division provides legal advice and litigation support to the Under Secretaries for Food Safety and for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, and the corresponding reporting agencies, to include the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, and the Agricultural Marketing Service. The division staff collaborates with its client agencies on critical USDA programs related to food safety and public health, animal and plant health, biotechnology regulation, agricultural marketing programs, commodity research and promotion programs, trade practice regulation, and grain inspection.
Natural Resources and Environment
The Division provides legal advice and litigation support to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and advises the Forest Service on compliance with Federal environmental and administrative laws governing management of the 193 million acre National Forest System. This division also provides legal advice and services to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in support of programs for natural resource conservation on private or non-federal lands, including programs authorized by the Food Security Act of 1985. OGC attorneys assist the agency in the administration of the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Conservation Program Technical Service Provider initiative, the Grassland Reserve Program, Wetland Reserve Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and the Healthy Forest Reserve Program.
Regional Office Functions
The Regional Offices provide legal advice to USDA client agencies on a day-to-day basis; render legal advice to agencies prior to agency actions; review documents and policies for legal implications. Staff in the offices provide legal representation in administrative proceedings -- MSPB, Board of Contract Appeals, EEOC and Interior Board of Land Appeals. Regional staff coordinate with DOJ in the conduct of litigation. Attorneys perform a wide variety of legal functions including:
- interpret federal, state and local laws;
- prepare legal documents including deeds, easements, rights-of-way, leases, and mortgages;
- draft, negotiate and interpret contracts; prepare pleadings and briefs for debt collection, bankruptcy, personnel, EEO, civil rights, and other litigation handled by U.S. Attorney's offices;
- provide advice and assistance on freedom of information and Privacy Act issues; and analyze questions of liability under pertinent U.S. criminal statutes, the Civil False Claims Act, and the Food Stamp Act; and
- decide legal merits of claims against the United States, including claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act.
Attorneys perform a wide variety of legal functions including:
Forest Service Conservation Programs
The Regional Offices provide legal services primarily to the USDA Forest Service Regions and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. These services relate to all types of legal matters, including issues relating to forest planning, water, grazing, access, mining, timber, law enforcement as well as real property easements and rights of ways.
The Regional Offices provide legal services primarily to the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the various agencies under the Rural Development umbrella, i.e., Rural Housing Service, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, and Rural Utility Service, as well as the Risk Management Agency and Food and Nutrition Service. These services relate to all types of legal matters, including foreclosures, bankruptcies, deceased estates, evictions, loan closing instructions, violation of civil and criminal statutes, and the making and servicing of loans to qualified borrowers.
The Eastern Region:
- The Eastern Region office is located in Atlanta, Georgia.
- There are 2 field offices in the Eastern Region located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
- 29 states and territories are served by the Eastern Region.
- In addition, Atlanta OGC handles some Forest Service work in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
The Central Region:
- The Central Region office is located in Kansas City, Missouri.
- There are 2 field offices in the Central Region which are located in Little Rock, Arkansas and Temple, Texas.
- 13 States are served by the Central Region.
The Mountain Region:
- The Mountain Region office is located in Denver, Colorado.
- There are 2 field offices in the Denver Region which are located in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Missoula, Montana.
- 8 states are served by the Mountain Region.
- In addition, Mountain Region offices handle some Forest Service work in Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska.
The Pacific Region:
- The Pacific Region office is located in San Francisco, California.
- There are 2 field offices located in Portland, Oregon and Juneau, Alaska.
- 8 states and territories are served by the Pacific region.