Amicus Brief of Scholars of Corpus Linguistics in Lucia v. SEC

50 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2018

See all articles by James Heilpern

James Heilpern

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: February 28, 2018


The question presented in Lucia v. SEC is whether administrative law judges of the Securities and Exchange Commission are "Officers of the United States" within the meaning of the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. This brief, filed on behalf of fifteen corpus linguistics scholars, presents empirical evidence derived from corpora—electronically-searchable databases of historical texts—that the term "Officer of the United States" was understood at the time of the Founding to apply to virtually all federal employees exercising non-negligible government authority—including the "assistant doorkeeper of the House of Representatives" and the "melter and refiner" of the U.S. Mint. The brief then explores data derived from modern usage of the word "officer," revealing that, at least within the public sphere, the term continues to apply to relatively low-ranking government officials. In light of this evidence, the Court should hold that an ALJ is an "officer" within the meaning the Appointments Clause, regardless of whether they choose to interpret that provision through the original or modern lens.

Keywords: administrative law, constitutional law, constitutional interpretation, Appointments Clause, agency adjudication, Securities and Exchange Commission, administrative law judges, original public meaning, corpus linguistics, law and linguistics

Suggested Citation

Heilpern, James, Amicus Brief of Scholars of Corpus Linguistics in Lucia v. SEC (February 28, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

James Heilpern (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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