Is the Federal Judiciary Independent of Congress?
70 Stanford Law Review Online 135 (2018).
11 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2018 Last revised: 21 Jul 2019
Date Written: February 14, 2018
Can Congress command a federal court to rule in favor of a particular party in a pending case? The answer to this seemingly simple question is unsettled. The Constitution permits Congress to enact rules of law that courts must follow; and it permits the courts to decide cases pending before them. Constitutional conflict arises when Congress writes a rule of law so specific that it guarantees the outcome in a particular, pending case. The Supreme Court is currently considering this fundamental separation of powers question in Patchak v. Zinke. This Essay describes the complex issues presented in Patchak and offers an approach to resolving them that preserves both Congress’s role in lawmaking and the judiciary’s independence.
Keywords: Legislation, separation of powers, constitutional law, klein rule of decision principle, federal courts
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