Executive (Agency) Administration

82 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2019 Last revised: 28 Jul 2019

See all articles by Bijal Shah

Bijal Shah

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2019

Abstract

The current account of executive power is incomplete. Now-Justice Elena Kagan noted that the President seeks control over the executive branch. Kagan referred to this paradigm as “presidential administration.” Kagan’s work and the significant body of literature it spawned has also acknowledged, however, that independent agencies are generally outside the ambit of presidential power. Nonetheless, this scholarship has not looked beyond the White House to consider other forms of overarching executive influence on the administrative state.

This Article reveals that not only the President, but executive agencies also seek and wield control over independent agencies for reasons that are distinct from the President’s interests. This results in what this Article calls “executive administration.” More specifically, executive agencies exert influence via litigation brought on their behalf by the Department of Justice against independent agencies before Article III courts. This contention is supported by an original data set of approximately 175 cases spanning the mid-twentieth century through the present day.

Litigation has consistently furthered the interests of executive agencies, including their desire to limit independent agencies’ power to regulate them and in overlapping areas of policymaking authority. For instance, courts have reversed independent agency decisions binding executive agencies, and constrained independent agencies’ authority to implement their enabling statutes. This may be for the better, but also for the worse. On the one hand, litigation offers a meaningful vehicle for beneficial, ex post executive oversight of independent agencies, particularly in light of the dearth of presidential mechanisms of quality control. On the other hand, a recent Supreme Court decision suggests litigation may be used to walk back Chevron deference to independent agencies, to the detriment of their ability to enforce the law with nonpartisanship and expertise.

Finally, recent cases brought by the Trump administration have sought to dislocate independent agencies in pursuit of a more unitary executive branch. These cases suggest that litigation could be a tool of presidential administration as well. Theoretically, this litigation exemplifies a constitutional prophylactic; in order to intensify control over the administrative state, the executive branch must cede power to the judiciary. However, courts will continue to serve as barriers to presidential abuse only as long as they remain nonpartisan.

Keywords: President, Presidential Administration, Executive Agency, Independent Agency, Executive Branch, Administrative Law, Political Insulation, Arbitrary and Capricious, Chevron, Separation of Powers

Suggested Citation

Shah, Bijal, Executive (Agency) Administration (March 1, 2019). 72 Stanford Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3353418

Bijal Shah (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Phoenix, AZ
United States

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