The Klein Rule of Decision Puzzle and the Self-Dealing Solution

95 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017 Last revised: 29 Dec 2017

See all articles by Evan C. Zoldan

Evan C. Zoldan

University of Toledo College of Law

Date Written: December 27, 2017


Scholars and courts have struggled to make sense of the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Klein, an intriguing but enigmatic opinion concerning the limits of Congress’s ability to interfere with cases pending before the federal courts. Klein is intriguing because its broad and emphatic language suggests significant limits on the power of Congress. Klein is enigmatic because the Court has never again struck down a statute because of Klein or even made clear what principle animates its result. In fact, despite reaffirming the existence of a principle based on Klein, the Court has repeatedly read it narrowly, suggesting that the principle it embodies has not been adequately articulated. This Article argues that Klein’s principle is a specific application of a robust constitutional tradition that restrains governmental self-dealing. A Klein principle restraining governmental self-dealing explains the Court’s Klein cases, situates the principle within constitutional theory and doctrine, and provides much-needed direction to lower courts wrestling with questions about legislative intrusions into judicial functions.

Keywords: Separation of Powers, Federal Courts, The United States v. Klein, Rule of Decision Principle, Congress, Self-Dealing

Suggested Citation

Zoldan, Evan Craig, The Klein Rule of Decision Puzzle and the Self-Dealing Solution (December 27, 2017). 74 Washington and Lee Law Review 2133 (2017), University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-06, Available at SSRN: or

Evan Craig Zoldan (Contact Author)

University of Toledo College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States

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