Constitutional Tensions in Agency Adjudication

26 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2018 Last revised: 25 Aug 2019

Date Written: November 23, 2018


Last Term the Supreme Court decided two cases — Lucia v. SEC and Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group — that illustrate the potential constitutional tensions in modern agency adjudication: the importance of political accountability, yet the dangers of political control. As part of the Iowa Law Review’s Administering Patent Law Symposium, this Essay examines these constitutional tensions and assesses two ways the Supreme Court (or Congress) could attempt to resolve them — i.e., by turning to Article III adjudication or by transforming agency adjudicators into “true adjuncts” of Article III courts. The Essay concludes by revisiting the patent adjudication proceedings at issue in Oil States to explore how these constitutional tensions and potential solutions may play out at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Keywords: agency adjudication, administrative law, PTAB, USPTO, judicial review, Chevron, Chenery

Suggested Citation

Walker, Christopher J., Constitutional Tensions in Agency Adjudication (November 23, 2018). Iowa Law Review, Vol. 104, pp. 2679-2704, 2019, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 466, Available at SSRN:

Christopher J. Walker (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States


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