Delegation and Judicial Review

By Merrill, Thomas W. | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Delegation and Judicial Review


Merrill, Thomas W., Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


One of the subthemes in the delegation debate concerns the importance of judicial review. The Supreme Court has often upheld broad delegations to administrative actors and in so doing has pointed out that judicial review is available to safeguard citizens from the abuse of unconstrained government power. (1) Broad delegations of power to executive actors are constitutionally permissible, the Court has suggested, in significant part because courts stand ready to assure citizens that the executive will discharge its discretion in a manner consistent with Congress's mandate and in a fashion that otherwise satisfies the requirements of reasoned decision making. (2)

Administrative law professors have underscored this point. Professor Kenneth Culp Davis, in his inimitable style, took the theme to the utmost extreme. He argued that what is really significant about the nondelegation doctrine is not that Congress must provide an intelligible principle, but that judicial review is available to make sure that administrative agencies follow the principle. (3) What matters is that someone, somewhere, supplies a standard for the exercise of administrative discretion and that the courts can enforce this standard. (4) It does not really matter where the standard comes from. Congress might supply it, but so too might an agency or even a court. The important thing is to have some standard to control discretion, plus judicial review.

The Court rejected this particular idea in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations. (5) Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, dismissed as "internally contradictory" the notion that an agency could cure a nondelegation problem by adopting a self-limiting standard. (6) As he explained: "The very choice of which portion of the power to exercise--that is to say, the prescription of the standard that Congress had omitted--would itself be an exercise of the forbidden legislative authority." (7)

What has been less noticed about American Trucking is that the Court, having interred the self-limiting-standards idea, also omitted the ritual bow to judicial review as an important safeguard against abuses of broad delegations. To be sure, the Court reaffirmed that the question whether a statute violates the nondelegation doctrine is for the courts to decide. (8) And the Court engaged in vigorous judicial review of the agency decision that triggered the nondelegation challenge, holding that the agency's decision was unreasonable. (9) But neither Justice Scalia nor any of the concurring Justices said that the availability of judicial review was itself a relevant element in resolving the delegation challenge.

Which leads to my topic: What is the role of judicial review in determining the constitutionality of broad delegations of power in a world in which the intelligible principle doctrine is, for practical purposes, dead? To make this question concrete, let me describe a petition for certiorari recently denied by the Supreme Court in County of El Paso v. Napolitano. (10) The petition was filed in December 2008 by the Yale Law School Supreme Court Clinic, of which I am currently a supervisor. The Court denied certiorari on June 15, 2009, (11) after the conference relisted the petition seven times. (12) As is usual, the Court gave no explanation for the denial.

The petition challenged an amendment to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), (13) which instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to build a barrier fence along portions of the border between Mexico and the United States to help control illegal entry into the United States. (14) Congress sought to assure that the fence was built as quickly as possible and, in particular, that this multimillion dollar construction project would not become bogged down in litigation. To achieve this objective, Congress amended IIRIRA in 2005. (15) The amended statute, in Section 102(c), delegates authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to "waive all legal requirements such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of [the fence]. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Delegation and Judicial Review
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.