Monthly Archives: March 2013

Strategic Interactions Between Administrative Agencies and the White House: A Welcome Look into the Black Box of the Executive Branch

Jennifer Nou, Agency Self-Insulation under Presidential Review, ___ Harv. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2013), available at SSRN.

Perhaps the hottest topic in administrative law of late is the propriety of presidential influence on agency action.  To its credit, that literature distinguishes between the agencies and the White House as two distinct institutions that may not agree on particular regulatory outcomes.  But, the literature does not go much beyond this simple distinction in its picture of the executive branch, treating both White House and agencies as black boxes, each of which acts with a consistent purpose. At the same time, scholarship has focused on agencies as strategic actors vis-à-vis the judiciary, choosing methods of policymaking to minimize the potential for courts to interfere with that endeavor.  In “Self-Insulation under Presidential Review,” Jennifer Nou investigates the extent to which agencies might act strategically amidst resource constraints as a means of minimizing White House influence on their policymaking discretion.  In so doing, Nou considers the internal structure and decisionmaking processes of both agencies and the “institutional presidency” to paint a sophisticated picture of their interaction.  The result is an article that provides insight into the decisionmaking of both these institutions, and provokes much thought about how their interaction might affect administrative law.

Nou explicitly limits her investigation of White House influence to its formal review of agency rules, as mandated by various executive orders, which she dubs “presidential review.”  She makes clear that while the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) coordinates such review, it can involve many entities, including those within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and other agencies.  She begins by explaining why agency staff and in many cases agency heads can disagree with the preferences of the institutional President on many regulatory policy issues.  She next explains that, from an agency’s perspective, presidential review poses constraints similar to judicial review in that, generally, both require the agency to invest precious resources to avoid reversal of its decision.  But, she notes that presidential review is also costly for the executive branch reviewers; this cost allows agencies some strategic latitude to minimize its chances of policy reversal by increasing the White House’s costs of review, rather than by investing in more comprehensive and higher quality decision-making.  For example, agencies can avoid review altogether by simply abandoning a policy change, by making policy through adjudication and perhaps even by guidance document.1 They may be able to avoid review or minimize the level of scrutiny to which a rule is exposed by designating the rule as not economically significant or not significant at all, or by providing only opaque and general information about costs and benefits.  Finally, they may be able to parlay statutory deadlines or the end of a President’s term effectively to shorten the period for OIRA review, thereby decreasing the level of scrutiny. Continue reading "Strategic Interactions Between Administrative Agencies and the White House: A Welcome Look into the Black Box of the Executive Branch"

Tort Law Meets Inheritance Law

John C.P. Goldberg & Robert H. Sitkoff, Torts and Estates: Remedying Wrongful Interference with Inheritance, 65 Stan. L. Rev. 335 (2013).

In their forthcoming article, Torts and Estates: Remedying Wrongful Interference with Inheritance, John C.P. Goldberg and Robert H. Sitkoff illustrate the potential pitfalls of recognizing causes of action without any awareness or consideration of how other areas of law deal with claims arising out of similar facts.  They argue that courts’ relatively recent recognition of the tort of wrongful interference with an expected inheritance is ill-conceived for two reasons.  First, it is unnecessary given the remedies available under inheritance law—a will contest or action for restitution by way of constructive trust.  Second, it conflicts with specialized inheritance law doctrines and procedures (such as inferences, presumptions, and burden shifting schemes, higher evidentiary standards, bench trials, and short statutes of limitations) developed to address the evidentiary challenges raised when the only person who can conclusively clarify or confirm his donative wishes is dead.  A disappointed expectant beneficiary who brings a claim for tortious interference with an expected inheritance will have fewer procedural hurdles to clear because courts have rejected or ignored the rules and procedures that apply to will contests and restitution claims.  A tort plaintiff may also recover substantial damages—including nonpecuniary and punitive damages—remedies that are unavailable in a will contest or action for restitution.

Goldberg and Sitkoff further argue that interference with expected inheritance claims are problematic conceptually.  Since a donor’s wishes are the guiding principle of inheritance law, a disappointed expectant beneficiary has no independent right to the donor’s property absent the donor’s exercise of his freedom of disposition.  As such, when a disappointed expectant beneficiary brings a wrongful interference with an expected inheritance claim, she is suing to vindicate the donor’s right to freedom of disposition rather than her own rights.  However, as every first year law student knows, a tort plaintiff cannot recover for a wrong done to another person.  She can only sue for a wrong done to her.  Of course, we suspect that a disappointed expectant beneficiary doesn’t sue only (or primarily) to vindicate the donor’s freedom of disposition but to secure her interest in the property.  While that may be the case, Goldberg and Sitkoff point out that the law cannot recognize her interest in the decedent’s property independent of decedent’s wishes because such interest would directly conflict with decedent’s freedom of disposition. Continue reading "Tort Law Meets Inheritance Law"

Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay? Research Publications of Interest for Anybody who Believes In The Rule of Law

• Free Access to Law – Is it Here to Stay?, Local Researcher’s Methodology Guide (2010).
• Free Access to Law – Is it Here to Stay?, Environmental Scan Report (2010).
• Free Access to Law – Is it Here to Stay?, Good Practices Handbook (2011).

“What is a Legal Information Institute when the transcripts of judgments are refused for publication – even by the courts themselves – by the company contracted to provide the transcription service on some very shady grounds of copyright?” That is one of the questions lingering in the wake of a very ambitious recent Free Access to Law project.1

The mission of the Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) it to maximize free access to public legal information such as legislation and case law from as many countries and international institutions as possible. To that end they produced the publications linked above. The “Local Researcher’s Methodology Guide” explains the reasons for the “Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay?” project in detail, and then provides instructions for researchers, including an “environmental scan matrix” and associative questionnaires. Continue reading "Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay? Research Publications of Interest for Anybody who Believes In The Rule of Law"