Administrative Law


National Security Preemption: The Case of Chemical Safety Regulation

Michael Jo

In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserted federal preemption of state law governing the security of chemical facilities. The continuing controversy over chemical security preemption reveals one way in which executive power asserts itself in the national security context: the reclassification of seemingly domestic regulatory concerns as matters of national security and the consequent constriction of state regulatory authority. This Note analyzes the DHS’s chemical security regulations as a case study for the problem of national security preemption. It argues that the presumption of federal supremacy in foreign affairs can ratify conclusory and unsupported preemption claims because the national security interest mixes both foreign and domestic affairs, while the only doctrinal guidance for defining that interest comes from contested foreign affairs preemption doctrines. The Note proposes that, if strengthened, deference doctrines drawn from administrative law provide the best means of scrutinizing and limiting such claims of executive authority. Agency claims of preemption on the basis of national security should be subject to heightened scrutiny. Such scrutiny is more useful than the stalemated positions of the law and security debate for policing the state-federal divide in national security.

Adjudication by Fiat: The Need for Procedural Safeguards in Attorney General Review of Board of Immigration Appeals Decisions

Laura S. Trice

The Attorney General enjoys broad authority to certify to himself and review de novo decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Though sparingly used, the certification power is controversial, in part because it permits the Attorney General to announce new rules and overturn longstanding precedent without meaningful process. Under current regulations, the Attorney General is not required to provide even basic procedural protections in certified cases, and he has issued decisions without giving the parties notice of the issues under review or an opportunity for briefing. This Note argues that review of BIA decisions without meaningful procedural safeguards implicates serious due process concerns, raises questions about the quality and accuracy of Attorney General decisions, and undermines the legitimacy and acceptability of immigration adjudication. To address these concerns, this Note proposes that the Attorney General promulgate regulations that require meaningful, adversarial participation by the parties and provide a transparent means of soliciting input from interested amici on issues of broad significance.

“Established by Law”: Saving Statutory Limitations on Presidential Appointments from Unconstitutionality

Matthew A. Samberg

In the federal government, over one thousand positions exist that require nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate. For many of these positions, the statute creating the office contains limitations on whom the President may appoint to the office. These limitations can include simple professional qualifications, policy-based restrictions, and political party balance requirements. Although such restrictions on the pool of individuals eligible for any given office have been used since the first Congress, are ubiquitous throughout the U.S. Code, and have never been successfully challenged in court, several authors, litigants, and executive officials have identified potential constitutional concerns regarding their validity. Limitations on the President’s nomination power, it is argued, should be suspect under the separation of powers set up by the U.S. Constitution as a congressional encroachment on an executive prerogative. In this Note, I examine the constitutional issues surrounding statutory limitations on appointments, present the traditional arguments for and against them, and suggest a paradigm shift for how we think about such limitations that may allay the constitutional concerns of their critics.

The Functional Political Question Doctrine and the Justiciability of Employee Tort Suits Against Military Service Contractors

Kristen L. Richer

In recent years, the U.S. military’s use of private contractors in waging its wars has drawn increased attention from the academic literature, largely related to the growing number of cases filed by U.S. servicemen and contractor personnel against companies like Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown & Root. These suits have garnered the attention of the legal academy, particularly as federal courts dismiss such suits as nonjusticiable under the political question doctrine—a doctrine of judicial restraint long associated with voting rights and gerrymandering caselaw. The recent application of the political question doctrine to cases involving military contractors raises familiar questions regarding the scope of the judiciary’s role in monitoring the actions of coordinate branches and the pragmatism of the judiciary playing such a role at all. This Note considers these matters through the lens of the functional political question doctrine. It concludes that while federal courts may have the institutional capacity to play some role in administering tort suits against private contractor firms, that participation should be carefully cabined to avoid any judicial interference with the military’s authority to set standards for combat. Thus, while in-field negligence claims will usually present nonjusticiable political questions, fraudulent recruitment claims will not.

Are Tradable Carbon Emissions Credits Investments? Characterization and Ramifications Under International Investment Law

Lisa Bennett

Implementation of carbon emissions trading schemes such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme requires consideration of how to properly characterize the newly-created emissions credits under various domestic and international law frameworks. Notably absent from the literature on emissions trading is an analysis of whether emissions credits can be characterized as investments, thereby implicating international investment law protections against expropriation and discrimination and giving rise to guarantees of fair and equitable treatment. This Note analyzes the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’s objective definition of “investment” as well as treaty-specific definitions of “investment” and concludes that carbon credits are properly considered investments. Next, the Note considers the types of investor claims that could be brought against host states if carbon credits are treated as investments. Because of the potential costs to host states in defending against such claims, states’ willingness to adopt carbon trading schemes may be chilled. This risk of regulatory chill, coupled with the global importance of national measures to combat climate change, counsels in favor of limiting the scope of rights afforded to investors. This Note therefore concludes by setting out a range of proposals for enacting such limits.

Imagining a Federal Emergency Board: A Framework for Legalizing Executive Emergency Power

Rachel Goodman

In the United States, the tripartite system ensures the rule of law by dividing the power to make laws between Congress and the President. The system, however, makes virtually no provision for moments of grave emergency, in which the President is expected to act before authorization from Congress can be secured. As a result, presidential discretion—exercised first in emergency—creeps into nonemergency governance, corroding the rule of law.

This Note employs John Locke’s concept of the federative power to define the emergency moment as limited to that period of time during which it is logistically impossible for Congress to approve executive action. From there, it proposes an administrative agency, the Federal Emergency Board, with the power to declare an emergency during this interval, thereby authorizing and legalizing the exercise of executive power.

Without ignoring the somewhat fantastical nature of this proposal, this Note engages seriously in a discussion of its constitutionality. It explores the remedies that would remain available to individuals whose rights were violated during a declared emergency. Finally, it examines whether a sitting President would be likely to seek authorization for his emergency action. It concludes that, at the very least, the existence of the Federal Emergency Board would remind Americans that the system of checks and balances does not disappear during moments of emergency.

The Bogeyman of “Harm to Children”: Evaluating the Government Interest Behind Broadcast Indecency Regulation

Jessica C. Collins

Although the government’s interest in preventing harm to children has played a central role in justifying regulation of broadcast indecency by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), courts generally have failed to examine this asserted interest. In this Note, I argue that this failure has added great uncertainty to indecency regulation and that more thorough consideration of this interest may provide greater clarity on the boundaries of permissible speech. I first review the doctrinal history of the regulation of indecency, both within broadcasting and in other media, to demonstrate that the interest in preventing harm to children, though a central justification of the regulatory scheme, has been ill defined. I then examine the recent case of FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. to illustrate that the vagueness of the current FCC indecency standard raises constitutional concerns. I contend that the vagueness may derive, at least in part, from courts’ failure to identify the type of harm to children that the government seeks to prevent through restrictions on indecent speech. Although the FCC’s structure may be inapt for identifying speech that is harmful to children, courts should undertake an investigation into the nature of the harm that indecency regulation seeks to prevent in order to provide limits on the scope of government authority. In the final Part, I therefore analyze five potential government interests, each stemming from a distinct potential harm that indecent broadcasting may create, and demonstrate how identifying the harm that indecency regulation is trying to address may restrict and define the scope of permissible government action.

Deregulation Through Nonenforcement

Daniel T. Deacon

This Note examines the phenomenon of deregulation through nonenforcement, drawing on examples from the George W. Bush Administration. It argues that the presumption of nonreviewability afforded to agency refusals to prosecute creates incentives for presidential administrations pursuing deregulatory agendas to manipulate agency enforcement practices. Furthermore, it contends that deregulation through nonenforcement is undesirable because it shields executive branch policy decisions from public view, thereby reducing accountability. Perhaps counterintuitively, the Note suggests that one way to counteract the negative effects of the presumption of nonreviewability is to reduce the level of review applied to other categories of agency action, such as notice-and-comment rulemaking, thus increasing the executive’s ability to act through more accountable means.

Partial Unconstitutionality

Kevin C. Walsh

Courts often hold legislation unconstitutional, but nearly always only part of the statute offends. The problem of partial unconstitutionality is therefore pervasive and persistent. Yet the exclusive doctrinal tool for dealing with this problem—severability doctrine—is deeply flawed. To make matters worse, severability doctrine is purportedly necessary for any workable system of judicial review. The accepted view is that severance saves: A court faced with a partially unconstitutional law must sever and excise the unconstitutional provisions or applications so that the constitutional remainder can be enforced going forward. Absent severance and excision, a law must fall in its entirety. This excision-based understanding of judicial review is supposedly traceable to Marbury v. Madison. In fact, this attribution is anachronistic. Moreover, the prevailing view is wrong about the distinctive function
of modern severability doctrine, which is not to save, but to destroy. This Article retrieves the original approach to partial unconstitutionality and develops a proposal for implementing a version of that approach. The proposal, displacement without inferred fallback law, is simultaneously ambitious and modest. It is ambitious because it proposes a shift in the general framework for judicial review in every case; it is modest because the proposed shift would change case outcomes in only a small set of highly consequential cases.

Debunking the Purchaser Welfare Account of Section 2 of the Sherman Act: How Harvard Brought Us a Total Welfare Standard and Why We Should Keep it

Alan J. Meese

The last several years have seen a vigorous debate among antitrust scholars and practitioners about the appropriate standard for evaluating the conduct of monopolists under section 2 of the Sherman Act. While most of the debate over possible standards has focused on the empirical question of each standard’s economic utility, this Article undertakes a somewhat different task: It examines the normative benchmark that courts have actually chosen when adjudicating section 2 cases. This Article explores three possible benchmarks—producer welfare, purchaser welfare, and total welfare—and concludes that courts have opted for a total welfare normative approach to section 2 since the formative era of antitrust law. Moreover, this Article will show that the commitment to maximizing total social wealth is not a recent phenomenon associated with Robert Bork and the Chicago School of antitrust analysis. Instead, it was the Harvard School that led the charge for a total welfare approach to antitrust generally and under section 2 in particular. The normative consensus between Chicago and Harvard and parallel case law is by no means an accident; rather, it reflects a deeply rooted desire to protect practices—
particularly “competition on the merits”—that produce significant benefits in the form of enhanced resource allocation, without regard to the ultimate impact on purchasers in the monopolized market. Those who advocate repudiation of the longstanding scholarly and judicial consensus reflected in the total welfare approach to section 2 analysis bear the heavy burden of explaining why courts should, despite considerations of stare decisis, suddenly reverse themselves and adopt such a different approach for the very first time, over a century after passage of the Act.