Fourth Circuit says “de novo” means “de novo” for SOX whistleblowers

I am pleased to report a favorable decision today from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In Stone v. Instrumentation Laboratory Co., No. 08-1970 (4th Cir. 12-31-2009), the Court reinstated David Stone’s SOX case after a lower court dismissed it saying that it would be "absurd" to allow Stone to have a new trial after a Department of Labor administrative judge dismissed it.  The Court found that the language in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), 18 U.S.C. Section 1514A(b)(1)(B), "to be plain and unambiguous." The Court added, "In applying preclusion principles, the district court strayed from the plain and unambiguous meaning of § 1514A(b)(1)(B). … A plaintiff’s right to pursue such relief is not circumscribed in any manner by the statute." "By definition, de novo review entails consideration of an issue as if it had not been decided previously." The Court also rejected a comment by the former Secretary of Labor that urged against allowing complainants to retry their cases in federal court.  The National Whistleblowers Center and the Government Accountability Project joined together to file an amicus brief urging this result. Tom Devine and Kasey Dunton of GAP worked with me on that amicus brief.  Congratulations to Adam Carter of The Employment Law Group for this excellent result for his client.

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