Enforcement Lawmaking and Judicial Review

71 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2021 Last revised: 11 Feb 2022

See all articles by Payvand Ahdout

Payvand Ahdout

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: March 29, 2021


It is — and has long been — well known that the Executive’s power is expanding. To date, there are two dominant analyses of the judiciary’s role in that expansion: the judiciary is intrinsically too weak to check the Executive or the judiciary has actively facilitated the Executive’s unprecedented enlargement of power. This Article challenges those views. It argues that the judiciary is very much engaged in devising techniques to check executive power. Through developments that are managerial and doctrinal, substantive and procedural, high-profile and seemingly mundane, federal courts have subjected an important set of executive actions that this Article terms “enforcement lawmaking” — the exercise of enforcement discretion in a manner that goes beyond simple policy and that shares attributes of law — to judicial oversight. Together, these developments reveal a potential shift in the structure of separation of powers. Courts have leveraged their inherent case-management powers — the procedures that shepherd lawsuits through the process of judicial review — to force transparency on the Executive and to hold it to account. This Article maps the effects of these “managerial checks,” which render the simple existence of judicial review powerful, particularly when viewed together with the extension of justiciability and remediation doctrines. Courts have authorized judicial review earlier and to greater effect by redefining when executive action is ripe for judicial review. They have created new avenues for multiparty public litigation through developments in standing doctrine. And they have increasingly deployed a muscular remedy, the nationwide injunction, to counterbalance increasingly muscular forms of executive action.

This Article argues that these developments along the entire life cycle of suits challenging enforcement lawmaking — from standing, to ripeness, to judicial recordkeeping and management, to remedies — should be viewed together and in separation-of-powers terms. The nuts and bolts of litigating these suits has led to an emerging expansion of judicial power. Courts have flexibly and responsively assimilated new assertions of executive power in ways that have restructured federal court doctrine and practice and emboldened federal courts. After documenting these changes at all levels of the federal judicial system, this Article offers a prescription for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court should avoid prematurely dictating the boundaries of this expanded judicial power from above and instead allow district courts and courts of appeals considerable freedom to fashion the judiciary’s checking powers from below. Such an approach will avoid premature Supreme Court interventions that have the effect of subjugating judicial power to executive power.

Keywords: Separation of Powers, Federal Courts, the Presidency, Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure

Suggested Citation

Ahdout, Payvand, Enforcement Lawmaking and Judicial Review (March 29, 2021). 135 Harv. L. Rev. 937, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2022-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3815300

Payvand Ahdout (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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