Agencies as Adversaries

65 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2016  

Daniel A. Farber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Anne Joseph O'Connell

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Date Written: August 21, 2016

Abstract

Conflict between agencies and outsiders — whether private stakeholders, state governments, or Congress — is the primary focus of administrative law. But battles also rage within the administrative state: federal agencies, or actors within them, are the adversaries. Recent examples abound, such as the battle between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense over hacking the iPhone of one of the San Bernandino shooters, the conflict between the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency over classifying some aspects of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the sharp conflict between the Republican and Democratic members of the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality.

This Article draws on rich institutional accounts to illuminate and classify the plethora of agency conflict and dispute resolution mechanisms. Then, by applying social scientific work on agency and firm design as well as constitutional theory, we aim to explain the creation of such conflict, largely by Congress and the White House but sometimes by the courts, and also evaluate its desirability. We assess the characteristics of conflict against economic, political, and philosophical criteria to suggest lessons for institutional design in the modern administrative state. In contrast to much of the existing literature, we focus on the potentially positive contribution of agency conflict to effective democratic governance.

Finally, we use our descriptive, positive, and normative work on agency conflict to contribute to long-standing legal debates and to flag important legal issues that have generated little attention. For instance, we investigate the constitutional limits of congressionally or judicially created conflict within the Executive Branch, the application of deference doctrines when agencies disagree in the administrative record, and the ability of agencies to take conflicting positions directly or indirectly in the courts themselves.

Keywords: administrative law, agency conflict, institutional design

Suggested Citation

Farber, Daniel A. and Joseph O'Connell, Anne, Agencies as Adversaries (August 21, 2016). California Law Review, Forthcoming; UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2841253. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2841253

Daniel A. Farber

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

Boalt Hall
Room 894
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-642-0340 (Phone)
510-642-3728 (Fax)

Anne Joseph O'Connell (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
(510) 643-9393 (Phone)

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