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Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau

Supreme Court of the United States

March 3, 2020, Argued; June 29, 2020, Decided

No. 19-7.


Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Congress established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent regulatory agency tasked with ensuring that consumer debt products are safe and transparent. In organizing the CFPB, Congress deviated from the structure of nearly every other independent administrative agency in our history. Instead of placing the agency under the leadership of a board with multiple members, Congress provided that the CFPB would be led by a single Director, who serves for a longer term than the President and cannot be removed by the President except for inefficiency, neglect, or malfeasance. The CFPB Director has no boss, peers, or voters to report to. Yet the Director wields vast rulemaking, enforcement, and adjudicatory authority over a significant portion of the U. S. economy. The question before us is whether this arrangement violates the Constitution’s separation of powers.

] Under our [***11]  Constitution, the “executive Power”—all of it—is “vested in a President,” who must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Art. II, §1, cl. 1; id., §3. Because no single person could fulfill that responsibility alone, the Framers expected that the President would rely on subordinate officers for assistance. Ten years ago, in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Bd., 561 U. S. 477, 130 S. Ct. 3138, 177 L. Ed. 2d 706 (2010), we reiterated that, “as a general matter,”  [**505]  the Constitution gives the President “the authority to remove those who assist him in carrying out his duties,” id., at 513-514, 130 S. Ct. 3138, 177 L. Ed. 2d 706. “Without such power, the President could not be held fully accountable for discharging his own responsibilities; the buck would stop somewhere else.” Id., at 514, 130 S. Ct. 3138, 177 L. Ed. 2d 706.

] The President’s power to remove—and thus supervise—those who wield executive power on his behalf follows from the  [*2192]  text of Article II, was settled by the First Congress, and was confirmed in the landmark decision Myers v. United States, 272 U. S. 52, 47 S. Ct. 21, 71 L. Ed. 160 (1926). Our precedents have recognized only two exceptions to the President’s unrestricted removal power. In Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, 295 U. S. 602, 55 S. Ct. 869, 79 L. Ed. 1611 (1935), we held that Congress could create expert agencies led by a group of principal officers removable by the President only for good cause. And in United States v. Perkins, 116 U. S. 483, 6 S. Ct. 449, 29 L. Ed. 700, 21 Ct. Cl. 499 (1886), and Morrison v. Olson, 487 U. S. 654, 108 S. Ct. 2597, 101 L. Ed. 2d 569 (1988), we held that Congress could provide tenure protections to certain inferior officers [***12]  with narrowly defined duties.

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140 S. Ct. 2183 *; 207 L. Ed. 2d 494 **; 2020 U.S. LEXIS 3515 ***; Fed. Sec. L. Rep. (CCH) P100,857; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 437; 2020 WL 3492641


Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: As Revised June 29, 2020.


Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau v. Seila Law LLC, 923 F.3d 680, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 13460 (9th Cir. Cal., May 6, 2019)

Disposition: 923 F. 3d 680, vacated and remanded.


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Constitutional Law, The Presidency, Appointment of Officials, Removal of Officials, Antitrust & Trade Law, Consumer Protection, Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices, Separation of Powers, Banking Law, Banking & Finance, Unfair & Deceptive Credit Practices, Governments, Legislation, Severability, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Standing, Case or Controversy, Standing, Particular Parties, The Presidency, Constitutional Questions, Necessity of Determination