Legal Historians as Authority in West Virginia v. EPA

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tags: legal history, Supreme Court, environmental history, regulation, EPA, Environmental Protection Agency

Here are the rival resorts to legal historians on nondelegation and the Founding in today's West Virginia v. EPA.  First, Justice Kagan’s dissent:

The kind of agency delegations at issue here go all the way back to this Nation’s founding. “[T]he founding era,”scholars have shown, “wasn’t concerned about delegation.” E. Posner & A. Vermeule, Interring the Nondelegation Doctrine, 69 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1721, 1734 (2002) (Posner & Vermeule). The records of the Constitutional Convention, the ratification debates, the Federalist—none of them suggests any significant limit on Congress’s capacity to delegate policymaking authority to the Executive Branch. And neither does any early practice. The very first Congress gave sweeping authority to the Executive Branch to resolve some of the day’s most pressing problems, including questions of “territorial administration,” “Indian affairs,” “foreign and domestic debt,” “military service,” and “the federal courts.” J. Mortenson & N. Bagley, Delegation at the Founding, 121 Colum. L. Rev. 277, 349 (2021) (Mortenson & Bagley). That Congress, to use a few examples, gave the Executive power to devise a licensing scheme for trading with Indians; to craft appropriate laws for the Territories; and to decide how to pay down the (potentially ruinous) national debt. See id., at 334–338, 340–342, 344–345; C. Chabot, The Lost History of Delegation at the Founding, 56 Ga. L. Rev. 81, 113–134(2021) (Chabot). Barely anyone objected on delegation grounds. See Mortenson & Bagley 281–282, 332, 339; Chabot 117–119; Posner & Vermeule 1733–1736.

And here is Justice Gorsuch's concurrence:

In the course of its argument, the dissent leans heavily on two recent academic articles. Post, at 29. But if a battle of law reviews were the order of the day, it might be worth adding to the reading list. See, e.g., I. Wurman, Nondelegation at the Founding, 130 Yale L. J. 1490, 1493–1494 (2021); D. Candeub, Preference and Administrative Law, 72 Admin. L. Rev. 607, 614–628 (2020); P. Hamburger, Delegation or Divesting?, 115 Nw. L. Rev. Online 88, 91–110 (2020); M. McConnell, The President Who Would Not Be King 326–335 (2020); A. Gordon, Nondelegation, 12 N. Y. U. J. L. & Liberty 718, 719 (2019); R. Cass, Delegation Reconsidered: A Delegation Doctrine for the Modern Administrative State, 40 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 147, 155–161 (2017); G. Lawson & G. Seidman,“A Great Power of Attorney:” Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution104–129 (2017); P. Hamburger, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? 377– 402 (2014); L. Alexander & S. Prakash, Reports of the Nondelegation Doctrine’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated, 70 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1297, 1298–1299 (2003); G. Lawson, Delegation and Original Meaning, 88 Va. L. Rev. 327, 335–343 (2002); D. Schoenbrod, The Delegation Doctrine: Could the Court Give It Substance? 83 Mich. L. Rev. 1223, 1252–1255, 1260–1261 (1985); see generally P. Wallison & J. Yoo, The Administrative State Before the Supreme Court: Perspectives on the Nondelegation Doctrine (2022).

H/t: Rafi Stern for noting my earlier, erroneous attribution of the second quotation to the Chief Justice.

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