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Who Is Alexander Acosta, and Will He Be the New Labor Secretary?

Authors: Harold P. Coxson (Washington DC), Hera S. Arsen, Ph.D. (Torrance)

Published Date: February 16, 2017

Within less than 24 hours following the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s first choice to fill the position of Secretary of Labor, the president announced at a press conference on Thursday, February 16 that his new choice for U.S. Secretary of Labor is Alexander Acosta of Miami, Florida.

Who Is Acosta?

Acosta has served in several positions in government, including at the National Labor Relations Board, where he authored over 125 decisions, and at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and later as U.S. Attorney. Acosta is currently the dean of Florida International University College of Law, which is South Florida’s only public law school. Prior to serving as the dean, Acosta served as the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida. He was also the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ—and was the first Hispanic to hold the rank of Assistant Attorney General.

Acosta received his law degree from Harvard Law School, after which he clerked for Justice Samuel Alito on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After clerking, Acosta worked in private practice at the Washington, D.C. office of a law firm. He later was the chairman of a community bank in Florida.

If confirmed by the Senate, Acosta would be the first Hispanic member of President Trump’s cabinet.

Puzder’s Withdrawal

The on-again, off-again saga to schedule a confirmation hearing for President Trump’s first choice came to an end on February 15, 2017, when Puzder withdrew from consideration for the position. Puzder’s confirmation hearing originally was set for January 12, 2017, but it was postponed four times—first to January 17, 2017, then to February 2, 2017, then to February 7, 2017, and finally to February 16, 2017.

Since his appointment was announced in December of 2016, opposition to his nomination has been building from multiple corners. In a statement, Puzder commented, “After careful consideration and discussions with my family, I am withdrawing my nomination for Secretary of Labor.” Puzder continued,

I am honored to have been considered by President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Labor and put America’s workers and businesses back on a path to sustainable prosperity. I want [to] thank President Trump for his nomination. I also thank my family and my many supporters—employees, businesses, friends and people who have voiced their praise and hopeful optimism for the policies and new thinking I would have brought to America as Secretary of Labor. While I won't be serving in the administration, I fully support the President and his highly qualified team.

Harold P. Coxson  (Washington DC)

Harold P. Coxson
Hal Coxson is a nationally recognized lawyer with over 35 years experience in all aspects of labor and employment law in Washington, DC. He is highly respected for his experience and expertise in government relations and as an advocate on behalf of business clients before Congress, the Executive Branch and independent federal regulatory agencies. He chairs the Firm’s Government Relations Practice Group and is a Principal in Ogletree Governmental Affairs, Inc., the Firm’s wholly-owned...

Hera S. Arsen, Ph.D.  (Torrance)

Hera S. Arsen, Ph.D.
Hera S. Arsen, J.D., Ph.D. is Senior Marketing Counsel overseeing the firm's print and online legal publications and content. Hera, who joined Ogletree Deakins in 2003, is directly responsible for writing and editing the firm's national legal content, including coverage of federal agencies and the Supreme Court of the United States. She also oversees the Ogletree Deakins blog, which covers the latest legal news from over 20 practice-areas and jurisdictions. As leader of the firm's blog, Hera...