In two prior posts (here and here), I have been discussing the ideas in my new paper, “Classical Liberal Administrative Law in a Progressive World.” This post continues the series by discussing how agency adjudication should be changed.
Under current arrangements, agencies often adjudicate cases that really should be adjudicated in Article III courts. Most of the time, these adjudications are called formal adjudications since they are accompanied by a formal hearing that provides significant procedural protections. The initial decision is made by an administrative law judge (ALJ) but, if the agency does not agree with the ALJ’s decision, the agency can appeal that decision to itself and reverse the ALJ. Thus, agency adjudications are ultimately controlled by the agency.
For the most part judges serve as a critical link in the ordinary flow of administration.
The puzzle is why judges review the constitutionality of (some) laws deferentially. Last week I considered one of the most often provided reasons for deference, that the judges are “unelected,” and so, in a republican political system, should be careful when striking down the enactments of popularly elected legislators. Yet in the American constitutional system, national-level courts are fully republican institutions. They are immunized from direct electoral supervision to make them and the system more republican, not less republican. They are selected by the people’s representatives, and serve only during “good behavior.” This makes courts republican institutions according to the “rigid definition” that James Madison provides in Federalist No. 39. So, too, at the state level, many judges are elected directly, or at least undergo retention elections. It’s hard to maintain at either the state or national level that the judiciary is a non-republican branch of government.