When the Team Loses an All-Star

One of CPSC’s best leaders, Cheri Falvey, will wrap up her tenure as the agency’s general counsel this Friday.

Cheri joined us as our general counsel in 2008. The now-retired Commissioner Moore and I, then the only two members of the Commission, wanted to make sure the person we chose to be our general counsel would be not only a brilliant lawyer, but someone who had the wisdom to know what the agency leadership needed to hear and the courage to say it, someone who could give the advice to keep us out of court and defend us when we got there.

And we knew the best way to get the person and the counsel we needed was to keep the position as far from the political realm as possible. If our general counsel—the agency’s chief lawyer—had to worry about keeping her job if she told a Commissioner something he or she didn’t want to hear, then we wouldn’t really have a lawyer. We would have a sycophant, useful to the egos of the “correctly-aligned” Commissioners but useless or even dangerous to the health of the agency and the people it serves.

In the four-and-a-half years she’s been here, Cheri has consistently given us excellent and honest counsel. That includes telling us (me included, on occasion) that we’re wrong, that we can’t do something we’d like, or must do something we would rather not. The world of administrative law is a complex, shifting one, and a mistake today can destroy our best work tomorrow. Cheri has helped us to see the pitfalls before we step in them.  She has been an extraordinary general counsel and dedicated public servant.

Cheri’s departure will be a loss to the agency, but I’m hopeful we’ll follow the example Commissioner Moore and I set when we hired her and choose her successor based on legal acumen, not political ideology.

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