Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Kent, Leib & Shugerman on Faithful Execution & Article II

Andrew Kent, Ethan J. Leib, and Jed Handelsman Shugerman, Fordham Law School, have posted “Faithful Execution” and Article II:
Article II of the U.S. Constitution twice imposes a duty of “faithful execution” on the President, who must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” and take an oath or affirmation to “faithfully execute the Office of President.” These clauses are cited often, but their background and original meaning have never been fully explored. Courts, the executive branch, and many scholars rely on one or both clauses as support for expansive views of presidential power, for example, to go beyond standing law to defend the nation in emergencies; to withhold documents from Congress or the courts; or to refuse to fully execute statutes on grounds of unconstitutionality or for policy reasons.

This Article is the first to explore the textual roots of these clauses from the time of Magna Carta and medieval England, through colonial America, and up to the original meaning in the Philadelphia Convention and ratification debates. We find that the language of “faithful execution” was for centuries before 1787 very commonly associated with the performance of public and private offices—especially those in which the officer had some control over the public fisc. “Faithful execution” language applied not only to senior government officials but also to a vast number of insignificant officers, too. We contend that it imposed three core requirements on officeholders:

(1) diligent, careful, good faith, and impartial execution of law or office;

(2) a duty not to misuse an office’s funds and or take unauthorized profits; and

(3) a duty not to act ultra vires, beyond the scope of one’s office.

These three duties of fidelity look a lot like fiduciary duties in modern private law. This “fiduciary” reading of the original meaning of the Faithful Execution Clauses might have important implications in modern constitutional law. Our history supports readings of Article II of the Constitution that limit presidents to exercise their power in good faith, for the public interest, and not for reasons of self-dealing, self-protection, or other bad faith, personal reasons. So understood, Article II may thus place some limits on the pardon and removal powers, for example. The history we present also supports readings of Article II that tend to subordinate presidential power to congressional direction, limiting presidential non-enforcement of statutes for policy and perhaps even constitutional reasons, and perhaps constraining agencies’ interpretation of statutes to pursue Congress’s objectives. Our conclusions undermines imperial and prerogative claims for the presidency, claims that are sometimes, in our estimation, improperly traced to dimensions of the clauses requiring faithful execution.

3 comments:

Shag from Brookline said...

The abstract does not make specific references to the Emoluments Clauses, which involve fiduciary implications. Maybe the article makes references thereto.

Shag from Brookline said...

Nor does the Table of Contents make specific references to the Emoluments Clauses.

Shag from Brookline said...

Part III of the article begins:

"Our history here supports three core meanings of the Constitution’s command of faithful execution. First, the President is constitutionally prohibited from using his office to profit himself and engage in financial transactions that primarily benefit himself. Although the Compensation Clause313 and the Emoluments Clause314 in Article II can be said to reinforce this intuitive conclusion, the history of the language of faithful execution we have adumbrated above requires this reading, too. The faithful execution requirement in the Presidential Oath Clause, which appears right after the Compensation and Emoluments Clauses, may be seen, perhaps, as a belt-and-suspenders effort315 to help police conflicts of interests and proscribe self-dealing."

Very comforting and compelling analysis.