Among other things, the Supreme Court's decision in Morrison v. Olson, 1 upholding Congress's authorization of independent counsel to investigate and prosecute high-ranking government officials for violation of federal criminal laws, presumably will chill speculation that the Supreme Court is prepared to rethink the constitutionality of the independent agencies. Prior to the 1980s the constitutionality of the independent agencies had generally been thought secure on the strength of Humphrey's Executor. 2 Despite recurrent criticism of that decision, 3 there was no basis to think it was especially vulnerable. The Court's recent fascination with separation of powers, 4 however, invited speculation about some radical reconstruction in administrative law, notably including deconstruction of the independent agencies. One of the cases inviting such speculation was the Court's decision in Immigration & Naturalization Service v. Chadha, 5 invalidating the legislative veto. While not directed at administrative agencies, Chadha could be taken as a sign of fresh concern about agency rulemaking as a form of non-article I lawmaking. 6 A year earlier the Court's Northern Pipeline decision, 7 holding that non-article III tribunals cannot adjudicate "private rights," threatened some agency adjudications. In themselves, Chadha and Northern Pipeline imply only vague threats to administrative agencies. After all, no one expects the Court to follow the logic of Chadha to the extent of invalidating the exercise of legislative power by all administrative agencies (say, by reviving the nondelegation doctrine). Furthermore, if Northern Pipeline has any future at all, 8 it should not ...
Glen O. Robinson,
Independent Agencies: Form and Substance in Executive Prerogative,
1988 Duke Law Journal
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol37/iss2/3