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Abstract

My goal with this Essay is a modest one: to raise a few reservations regarding judicial refashioning of agency design via this severance remedy for separation of powers violations. To that end, the Essay will proceed fairly straightforwardly. I will describe three cases or sets of cases in which the Supreme Court or the D.C. Circuit has employed the severance remedy: Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a series of D.C. Circuit cases brought by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System against the Copyright Royalty Board, and PHH Corp. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Then I will highlight three reservations I have about using the severance remedy in this way: (1) that the remedy may not reflect the judicial restraint that motivates it; (2) that the remedy is sufficiently weak that its repeated use will chill litigation of legitimate constitutional challenges; and (3) that the remedy makes agency officials more politically accountable when, arguably, popular understandings of separation of powers principles might counsel otherwise. To the extent these reservations are accurate, judicial use of the severance remedy to address agency design flaws may, in turn, exacerbate questions regarding the fairness and legitimacy of agency actions.

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