Justices Wrestle With President’s Power to Fire Consumer Advocate
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court wrestled Tuesday with the politically charged dispute over whether the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, is constitutional.
The arguments the justices heard Tuesday stemmed from an appeals court decision that upheld the structure of the watchdog agency.
Under the Dodd-Frank Act that created the CFPB, its director is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to a five-year term. The president can only remove a director for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.”
That means that an incoming president can’t immediately fire the agency’s head, appointed in the previous administration, without cause.
Defenders of the bureau’s structure say it is good in that it insulates the agency’s head from pressure by the president.
But the Trump administration, among others, contends the bureau is unlawfully autonomous.
Seila Law LLC, the California law firm that is the named petitioner in the case says the structure of the bureau violates the separation of powers.
“The Constitution empowers the president to keep federal officers accountable by removing them from office,” the law firm’s writ of certiorari states. “While in limited circumstances the Court has upheld the constitutionality of certain multi-member ‘independent’ agencies, whose leading officers the president can remove only for cause, the Court has never upheld the constitutionality of an independent agency that exercises significant executive authority and is headed by a single person.”
“In 2010, Congress created just such an agency: the CFPB,” the brief continues. “Headed by a single director removable only for cause, the CFPB possesses substantial executive authority, including the power to implement and enforce 19 federal consumer-protection statutes.”
During arguments Tuesday,Justice Brett Kavanaugh called that restriction “troubling,” but most of his colleagues seemed to disagree.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for instance, who described the restrictions as “modest.”
The impact of the justices’ decision in the case could go beyond the CFPB because the heads of other so-called independent agencies have a similar restriction on being fired. Those agencies include the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission.
A decision in the case, Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 19-7, is expected by the end of June.
In The News
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Age Discrimination and Employment Act allows federal employees to sue over any age bias inferred by an adverse employment action -- even when that bias isn't the driving factor behind a decision. The petitioner, Noris Babb,... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court did not add any new cases to its docket Monday morning, declining, among other things, to revisit the murder conviction of the 1960s black militant formerly known as H. Rap Brown. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he rose to fame... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a Kansas deputy sheriff did not violate a motorist's constitutional rights when he pulled over a truck owned by a driver with a revoked license. The case stems from events that occurred April 28, 2016. It was on... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Friday said it would postpone oral arguments scheduled for its April session due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it increasingly unlikely they will be able to hear every case they planned to before their summer recess begins in July. In... Read More
WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic has put on indefinite hold a major portion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket, including a multibillion-dollar clash between software giants Google and Oracle Corp. and cases that could affect President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. What was supposed to have been... Read More
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a challenge to Seattle's "Democracy Voucher Program," leaving in place the city's public financing program for local elections. Though the justices offered no explanation for their decision not to weigh in on the case, their... Read More