Simplistic Structure and History in Seila Law
Sasha W. Boutilier
In Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Supreme Court split 5–4 on appointing party lines in striking down for-cause removal protections for the Bureau’s single Director as violating the constitutional separation of powers. Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion expounded a novel principle: Significant executive power may not be concentrated in any single individual in the executive branch unless that individual is removable at-will by the President. This Note argues that the majority’s usage of structure and history to constitutionalize this principle was deeply flawed. It is unconstrained by any particular interpretive commitments. Further, it is internally inconsistent, logically flawed, historically opportunistic, and unsupported by a pragmatic consideration of the issue. And the Court’s subsequent decision, Collins v. Yellen—extending Seila Law to invalidate removal protection for the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency—has only exacerbated Seila Law’s flaws. I conclude with reflection on agency independence post-Seila Law and a call for pragmatic deference to the political branches.