Fiduciary Constitutionalism and ‘Faithful Execution’: Two Legal Conclusions
28 Pages Posted: 29 May 2018 Last revised: 28 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 14, 2018
This Essay explores the Constitution’s requirement that the President “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and the requirement that he take an oath to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” The idea that public servants hold their offices in trust for subject-beneficiaries and that a sovereign’s exercise of its political power must be constrained by fiduciary standards – like the duties of loyalty and care – is not new. But we are collecting more and more evidence that the framers of the U.S. Constitution rather self-consciously sought to design a “the fiduciary law of public power” in which the government’s “conduct would mimic that of the private-law fiduciary.” Here we show how the distinctive fiduciary language that appears in Article II reinforces a strain of work in fiduciary constitutionalism by Robert Natelson, Gary Lawson, and Guy Seidman.
After developing some historical links between private fiduciary instruments and state and federal constitutions, we opine on what the fact of the fiduciary constitution may mean for modern issues in constitutional law. First, we argue that fiduciary constraint has implications for the legal validity of presidential pardons that are not efforts to pursue the public interest. Because the core duty of all fiduciaries is to be loyal to beneficiaries and not to pursue their own self-interest, pardons in derogation of a president’s fiduciary obligation are invalid. Second, we suggest that when properly conceived as a trust instrument, we can both appreciate where the non-delegation doctrine came from and why it is consistent with the original meaning of the Constitution to have a much relaxed rule about delegation today. By way of conclusion, we meditate on how to convert legal conclusions that flow from the fact of our fiduciary constitution into remedies that make sense for the potentially sui generis fiduciary law that is constitutional law.
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