From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company

Jun 28, 2010
561 U.S. 477 (2010)


holding unconstitutional tenure provisions protecting executive officer, but concluding "the existence of the Board does not violate the separation of powers"

Summary of this case from Collins v. Yellen


No. 08–861.



Michael A. Carvin, Washington, DC, for petitioners. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Washington, DC, for respondent United States. Jeffrey A. Lamken, Washington, DC, for respondents Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. David M. Becker, General Counsel, Mark D. Cahn, Deputy General Counsel, Jacob H. Stillman, Solicitor, John W. Avery, Senior Litigation Counsel, Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, D.C., Elena Kagan, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Edwin S. Kneedler, Deputy Solicitor General, Curtis E. Gannon, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Mark B. Stern, Mark R. Freeman, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for respondent. J. Gordon Seymour, Jacob N. Lesser, Mary I. Peters, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Washington, D.C., Jeffrey A. Lamken, Counsel of Record, Robert K. Kry, MoloLamken LLP, Washington, D.C., James R. Doty, Baker Botts LLP, Washington, D.C., for Respondents Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Bill Gradison, Daniel L. Goelzer, and Charles D. Niemeier. Kenneth W. Starr, Malibu, CA, Viet D. Dinh, Bancroft Associates PLLC, Washington, DC, Michael A. Carvin, Counsel of Record, Noel J. Francisco, Christian A. Vergonis, Jones Day, Washington, DC, Sam Kazman, Hans Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, for petitioners.

Michael A. Carvin, Washington, DC, for petitioners.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Washington, DC, for respondent United States.

Jeffrey A. Lamken, Washington, DC, for respondents Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

David M. Becker, General Counsel, Mark D. Cahn, Deputy General Counsel, Jacob H. Stillman, Solicitor, John W. Avery, Senior Litigation Counsel, Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington, D.C., Elena Kagan, Solicitor General, Counsel of Record, Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Edwin S. Kneedler, Deputy Solicitor General, Curtis E. Gannon, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Mark B. Stern, Mark R. Freeman, Attorneys, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

J. Gordon Seymour, Jacob N. Lesser, Mary I. Peters, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Washington, D.C., Jeffrey A. Lamken, Counsel of Record, Robert K. Kry, MoloLamken LLP, Washington, D.C., James R. Doty, Baker Botts LLP, Washington, D.C., for Respondents Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Bill Gradison, Daniel L. Goelzer, and Charles D. Niemeier.

Kenneth W. Starr, Malibu, CA, Viet D. Dinh, Bancroft Associates PLLC, Washington, DC, Michael A. Carvin, Counsel of Record, Noel J. Francisco, Christian A. Vergonis, Jones Day, Washington, DC, Sam Kazman, Hans Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC, for petitioners.


Chief Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Our Constitution divided the “powers of the new Federal Government into three defined categories, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.” INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 951, 103 S.Ct. 2764, 77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983). Article II vests “[t]he executive Power ... in a President of the United States of America,” who must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Art. II, § 1, cl. 1; id., § 3. In light of “[t]he impossibility that one man should be able to perform all the great business of the State,” the Constitution provides for executive officers to “assist the supreme Magistrate in discharging the duties of his trust.” 30 Writings of George Washington 334 (J. Fitzpatrick ed.1939).

Since 1789, the Constitution has been understood to empower the President to keep these officers accountable—by removing them from office, if necessary. See generally Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 47 S.Ct. 21, 71 L.Ed. 160 (1926). This Court has determined, however, that this authority is not without limit. In Humphrey's Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602, 55 S.Ct. 869, 79 L.Ed. 1611 (1935), we held that Congress can, under certain circumstances, create independent agencies run by principal officers appointed by the President, whom the President may not remove at will but only for good cause. Likewise, in United States v. Perkins, 116 U.S. 483, 21 Ct.Cl. 499, 6 S.Ct. 449, 29 L.Ed. 700 (1886), and Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 108 S.Ct. 2597, 101 L.Ed.2d 569 (1988), the Court sustained similar restrictions on the power of principal executive officers—themselves responsible to the President—to remove their own inferiors. The parties do not ask us to reexamine any of these precedents, and we do not do so.

We are asked, however, to consider a new situation not yet encountered by the Court. The question is whether these separate layers of protection may be combined. May the President be restricted in his ability to remove a principal officer, who is in turn restricted in his ability to remove an inferior officer, even though that inferior officer determines the policy and enforces the laws of the United States?

We hold that such multilevel protection from removal is contrary to Article II's vesting of the executive power in the President. The President cannot “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” if he cannot oversee the faithfulness of the officers who execute them. Here the President cannot remove an officer who enjoys more than one level of good-cause protection, even if the President determines that the officer is neglecting his duties or discharging them improperly. That judgment is instead committed to another officer, who may or may not agree with the President's determination, and whom the President cannot remove simply because that officer disagrees with him. This contravenes the President's “constitutional obligation to ensure the faithful execution of the laws.” Id., at 693, 108 S.Ct. 2597.



After a series of celebrated accounting debacles, Congress enacted the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (or Act), 116 Stat. 745. Among other measures, the Act introduced tighter regulation of the accounting industry under a new Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The Board is composed of five members, appointed to staggered 5–year terms by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was modeled on private self-regulatory organizations in the securities industry—such as the New York Stock Exchange—that investigate and discipline their own members subject to Commission oversight. Congress created the Board as a private “nonprofit corporation,” and Board members and employees are not considered Government “officer[s] or employee[s]” for statutory purposes. 15 U.S.C. §§ 7211(a), (b). The Board can thus recruit its members and employees from the private sector by paying salaries far above the standard Government pay scale. See §§ 7211(f)(4), 7219.

The current salary for the Chairman is $673,000. Other Board members receive $547,000. Brief for Petitioners 3.

Unlike the self-regulatory organizations, however, the Board is a Government-created, Government-appointed entity, with expansive powers to govern an entire industry. Every accounting firm—both foreign and domestic—that participates in auditing public companies under the securities laws must register with the Board, pay it an annual fee, and comply with its rules and oversight. §§ 7211(a), 7212(a), (f), 7213, 7216(a)(1). The Board is charged with enforcing the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, the securities laws, the Commission's rules, its own rules, and professional accounting standards. §§ 7215(b)(1), (c)(4). To this end, the Board may regulate every detail of an accounting firm's practice, including hiring and professional development, promotion, supervision of audit work, the acceptance of new business and the continuation of old, internal inspection procedures, professional ethics rules, and “such other requirements as the Board may prescribe.” § 7213(a)(2)(B).

The Board promulgates auditing and ethics standards, performs routine inspections of all accounting firms, demands documents and testimony, and initiates formal investigations and disciplinary proceedings. §§ 7213–7215 (2006 ed. and Supp. II). The willful violation of any Board rule is treated as a willful violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 881, 15 U.S.C. § 78a et seq.—a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years' imprisonment or $25 million in fines ($5 million for a natural person). §§ 78ff(a), 7202(b)(1) (2006 ed.). And the Board itself can issue severe sanctions in its disciplinary proceedings, up to and including the permanent revocation of a firm's registration, a permanent ban on a person's associating with any registered firm, and money penalties of $15 million ($750,000 for a natural person). § 7215(c)(4). Despite the provisions specifying that Board members are not Government officials for statutory purposes, the parties agree that the Board is “part of the Government” for constitutional purposes, Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 513 U.S. 374, 397, 115 S.Ct. 961, 130 L.Ed.2d 902 (1995), and that its members are “ ‘Officers of the United States' ” who “exercis[e] significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States,” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 125–126, 96 S.Ct. 612, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976) (per curiam ) (quoting Art. II, § 2, cl. 2); cf. Brief for Petitioners 9, n. 1; Brief for United States 29, n. 8.

The Act places the Board under the SEC's oversight, particularly with respect to the issuance of rules or the imposition of sanctions (both of which are subject to Commission approval and alteration). §§ 7217(b)-(c). But the individual members of the Board—like the officers and directors of the self-regulatory organizations—are substantially insulated from the Commission's control. The Commission cannot remove Board members at will, but only “for good cause shown,” “in accordance with” certain procedures. § 7211(e)(6).

Those procedures require a Commission finding, “on the record” and “after notice and opportunity for a hearing,” that the Board member

“(A) has willfully violated any provision of th[e] Act, the rules of the Board, or the securities laws;

“(B) has willfully abused the authority of that member; or

“(C) without reasonable justification or excuse, has failed to enforce compliance with any such provision or rule, or any professional standard by any registered public accounting firm or any associated person thereof.” § 7217(d)(3).

Removal of a Board member requires a formal Commission order and is subject to judicial review. See 5 U.S.C. §§ 554(a), 556(a), 557(a), (c)(B); 15 U.S.C. § 78y(a)(1). Similar procedures govern the Commission's removal of officers and directors of the private self-regulatory organizations. See § 78s(h)(4). The parties agree that the Commissioners cannot themselves be removed by the President except under the Humphrey's Executor standard of “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office,” 295 U.S., at 620, 55 S.Ct. 869 (internal quotation marks omitted); see Brief for Petitioners 31; Brief for United States 43; Brief for Respondent Public Company Accounting Oversight Board 31 (hereinafter PCAOB Brief); Tr. of Oral Arg. 47, and we decide the case with that understanding.


Beckstead and Watts, LLP, is a Nevada accounting firm registered with the Board. The Board inspected the firm, released a report critical of its auditing procedures, and began a formal investigation. Beckstead and Watts and the Free Enterprise Fund, a nonprofit organization of which the firm is a member, then sued the Board and its members, seeking (among other things) a declaratory judgment that the Board is unconstitutional and an injunction preventing the Board from exercising its powers. App. 71.

Before the District Court, petitioners argued that the Sarbanes–Oxley Act contravened the separation of powers by conferring wide-ranging executive power on Board members without subjecting them to Presidential control. Id., at 67–68. Petitioners also challenged the Act under the Appointments Clause, which requires “Officers of the United States” to be appointed by the President with the Senate's advice and consent. Art. II, § 2, cl. 2. The Clause provides an exception for “inferior Officers,” whose appointment Congress may choose to vest “in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.” Ibid. Because the Board is appointed by the SEC, petitioners argued that (1) Board members are not “inferior Officers” who may be appointed by “Heads of Departments”; (2) even if they are, the Commission is not a “Departmen[t]”; and (3) even if it is, the several Commissioners (as opposed to the Chairman) are not its “Hea[d].” See App. 68–70. The United States intervened to defend the Act's constitutionality. Both sides moved for summary judgment; the District Court determined that it had jurisdiction and granted summary judgment to respondents. App. to Pet. for Cert. 110a–117a.

A divided Court of Appeals affirmed. 537 F.3d 667 (C.A.D.C.2008). It agreed that the District Court had jurisdiction over petitioners' claims. Id., at 671. On the merits, the Court of Appeals recognized that the removal issue was “a question of first impression,” as neither that court nor this one “ha[d] considered a situation where a restriction on removal passes through two levels of control.” Id., at 679. It ruled that the dual restraints on Board members' removal are permissible because they do not “render the President unable to perform his constitutional duties.” Id., at 683. The majority reasoned that although the President “does not directly select or supervise the Board's members,” id., at 681, the Board is subject to the comprehensive control of the Commission, and thus the President's influence over the Commission implies a constitutionally sufficient influence over the Board as well. Id., at 682–683. The majority also held that Board members are inferior officers subject to the Commission's direction and supervision, id., at 672–676, and that their appointment is otherwise consistent with the Appointments Clause, id., at 676–678.

Judge Kavanaugh dissented. He agreed that the case was one of first impression, id., at 698, but argued that “the double for-cause removal provisions in the [Act] ... combine to eliminate any meaningful Presidential control over the [Board],” id., at 697. Judge Kavanaugh also argued that Board members are not effectively supervised by the Commission and thus cannot be inferior officers under the Appointments Clause. Id., at 709–712.

We granted certiorari. 556 U.S. 1234, 129 S.Ct. 2378, 173 L.Ed.2d 1291 (2009).


We first consider whether the District Court had jurisdiction. We agree with both courts below that the statutes providing for judicial review of Commission action did not prevent the District Court from considering petitioners' claims.

The Sarbanes–Oxley Act empowers the Commission to review any Board rule or sanction. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 7217(b)(2)-(4), (c)(2). Once the Commission has acted, aggrieved parties may challenge “a final order of the Commission” or “a rule of the Commission” in a court of appeals under § 78y, and “[n]o objection ... may be considered by the court unless it was urged before the Commission or there was reasonable ground for failure to do so.” §§ 78y(a)(1), (b)(1), (c)(1).

The Government reads § 78y as an exclusive route to review. But the text does not expressly limit the jurisdiction that other statutes confer on district courts. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 2201. Nor does it do so implicitly. Provisions for agency review do not restrict judicial review unless the “statutory scheme” displays a “fairly discernible” intent to limit jurisdiction, and the claims at issue “are of the type Congress intended to be reviewed within th[e] statutory structure.” Thunder Basin Coal Co. v. Reich, 510 U.S. 200, 207, 212, 114 S.Ct. 771, 127 L.Ed.2d 29 (1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). Generally, when Congress creates procedures “designed to permit agency expertise to be brought to bear on particular problems,” those procedures “are to be exclusive.” Whitney Nat. Bank in Jefferson Parish v. Bank of New Orleans & Trust Co., 379 U.S. 411, 420, 85 S.Ct. 551, 13 L.Ed.2d 386 (1965). But we presume that Congress does not intend to limit jurisdiction if “a finding of preclusion could foreclose all meaningful judicial review”; if the suit is “wholly collateral to a statute's review provisions”; and if the claims are “outside the agency's expertise.” Thunder Basin, supra, at 212–213, 114 S.Ct. 771 (internal quotation marks omitted). These considerations point against any limitation on review here.

We do not see how petitioners could meaningfully pursue their constitutional claims under the Government's theory. Section 78y provides only for judicial review of Commission action, and not every Board action is encapsulated in a final Commission order or rule.

The Government suggests that petitioners could first have sought Commission review of the Board's “auditing standards, registration requirements, or other rules.” Brief for United States 16. But petitioners object to the Board's existence, not to any of its auditing standards. Petitioners' general challenge to the Board is “collateral” to any Commission orders or rules from which review might be sought. Cf. McNary v. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc., 498 U.S. 479, 491–492, 111 S.Ct. 888, 112 L.Ed.2d 1005 (1991). Requiring petitioners to select and challenge a Board rule at random is an odd procedure for Congress to choose, especially because only new rules, and not existing ones, are subject to challenge. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 78s(b)(2), 78y(a)(1), 7217(b)(4).

Alternatively, the Government advises petitioners to raise their claims by appealing a Board sanction. Brief for United States 16–17. But the investigation of Beckstead and Watts produced no sanction, see id., at 7, n. 5; Reply Brief for Petitioners 29, n. 11 (hereinafter Reply Brief), and an uncomplimentary inspection report is not subject to judicial review, see § 7214(h)(2). So the Government proposes that Beckstead and Watts incur a sanction (such as a sizable fine) by ignoring Board requests for documents and testimony. Brief for United States 17. If the Commission then affirms, the firm will win access to a court of appeals—and severe punishment should its challenge fail. We normally do not require plaintiffs to “bet the farm ... by taking the violative action” before “testing the validity of the law,” MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118, 129, 127 S.Ct. 764, 166 L.Ed.2d 604 (2007); accord, Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908), and we do not consider this a “meaningful” avenue of relief. Thunder Basin, 510 U.S., at 212, 114 S.Ct. 771.

Petitioners' constitutional claims are also outside the Commission's competence and expertise. In Thunder Basin, the petitioner's primary claims were statutory; “at root ... [they] ar[o]se under the Mine Act and f[e]ll squarely within the [agency's] expertise,” given that the agency had “extensive experience” on the issue and had “recently addressed the precise ... claims presented.” Id., at 214–215, 114 S.Ct. 771. Likewise, in United States v. Ruzicka, 329 U.S. 287, 67 S.Ct. 207, 91 L.Ed. 290 (1946), on which the Government relies, we reserved for the agency fact-bound inquiries that, even if “formulated in constitutional terms,” rested ultimately on “factors that call for [an] understanding of the milk industry,” to which the Court made no pretensions. Id., at 294, 67 S.Ct. 207. No similar expertise is required here, and the statutory questions involved do not require “technical considerations of [agency] policy.” Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361, 373, 94 S.Ct. 1160, 39 L.Ed.2d 389 (1974). They are instead standard questions of administrative law, which the courts are at no disadvantage in answering.

We therefore conclude that § 78y did not strip the District Court of jurisdiction over these claims, which are properly presented for our review. III

The Government asserts that “petitioners have not pointed to any case in which this Court has recognized an implied private right of action directly under the Constitution to challenge governmental action under the Appointments Clause or separation-of-powers principles.” Brief for United States 22. The Government does not appear to dispute such a right to relief as a general matter, without regard to the particular constitutional provisions at issue here. See, e.g., Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 74, 122 S.Ct. 515, 151 L.Ed.2d 456 (2001) (equitable relief “has long been recognized as the proper means for preventing entities from acting unconstitutionally”); Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 684, 66 S.Ct. 773, 90 L.Ed. 939 (1946) (“[I]t is established practice for this Court to sustain the jurisdiction of federal courts to issue injunctions to protect rights safeguarded by the Constitution”); see also Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 149, 165, 167, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908). If the Government's point is that an Appointments Clause or separation-of-powers claim should be treated differently than every other constitutional claim, it offers no reason and cites no authority why that might be so.

We hold that the dual for-cause limitations on the removal of Board members contravene the Constitution's separation of powers.


The Constitution provides that “[t]he executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” Art. II, § 1, cl. 1. As Madison stated on the floor of the First Congress, “if any power whatsoever is in its nature Executive, it is the power of appointing, overseeing, and controlling those who execute the laws.” 1 Annals of Cong. 463 (1789).

The removal of executive officers was discussed extensively in Congress when the first executive departments were created. The view that “prevailed, as most consonant to the text of the Constitution” and “to the requisite responsibility and harmony in the Executive Department,” was that the executive power included a power to oversee executive officers through removal; because that traditional executive power was not “expressly taken away, it remained with the President.” Letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson (June 30, 1789), 16 Documentary History of the First Federal Congress 893 (2004). “This Decision of 1789 provides contemporaneous and weighty evidence of the Constitution's meaning since many of the Members of the First Congress had taken part in framing that instrument.” Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 723–724, 106 S.Ct. 3181, 92 L.Ed.2d 583 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). And it soon became the “settled and well understood construction of the Constitution.” Ex parte Hennen, 38 U.S. 230, 13 Pet. 230, 259, 10 L.Ed. 138 (1839).

The landmark case of Myers v. United States reaffirmed the principle that Article II confers on the President “the general administrative control of those executing the laws.” 272 U.S., at 164, 47 S.Ct. 21. It is his responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. The buck stops with the President, in Harry Truman's famous phrase. As we explained in Myers, the President therefore must have some “power of removing those for whom he can not continue to be responsible.” Id., at 117, 47 S.Ct. 21.

Nearly a decade later in Humphrey's Executor, this Court held that Myers did not prevent Congress from conferring good-cause tenure on the principal officers of certain independent agencies. That case concerned the members of the Federal Trade Commission, who held 7–year terms and could not be removed by the President except for “ ‘inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.’ ” 295 U.S., at 620, 55 S.Ct. 869 (quoting 15 U.S.C. § 41). The Court distinguished Myers on the ground that Myers concerned “an officer [who] is merely one of the units in the executive department and, hence, inherently subject to the exclusive and illimitable power of removal by the Chief Executive, whose subordinate and aid he is.” 295 U.S., at 627, 55 S.Ct. 869. By contrast, the Court characterized the FTC as “quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial” rather than “purely executive,” and held that Congress could require it “to act ... independently of executive control.” Id., at 627–629, 55 S.Ct. 869. Because “one who holds his office only during the pleasure of another, cannot be depended upon to maintain an attitude of independence against the latter's will,” the Court held that Congress had power to “fix the period during which [the Commissioners] shall continue in office, and to forbid their removal except for cause in the meantime.” Id., at 629, 55 S.Ct. 869.

Humphrey's Executor did not address the removal of inferior officers, whose appointment Congress may vest in heads of departments. If Congress does so, it is ordinarily the department head, rather than the President, who enjoys the power of removal. See Myers, supra, at 119, 127, 47 S.Ct. 21; Hennen, supra, at 259–260, 38 U.S. 230. This Court has upheld for-cause limitations on that power as well. In Perkins, a naval cadet-engineer was honorably discharged from the Navy because his services were no longer required. 116 U.S. 483, 21 Ct.Cl. 499, 6 S.Ct. 449, 29 L.Ed. 700. He brought a claim for his salary under statutes barring his peacetime discharge except by a court-martial or by the Secretary of the Navy “for misconduct.” Rev. Stat. §§ 1229, 1525. This Court adopted verbatim the reasoning of the Court of Claims, which had held that when Congress “ ‘vests the appointment of inferior officers in the heads of Departments[,] it may limit and restrict the power of removal as it deems best for the public interest.’ ” 116 U.S., at 485, 6 S.Ct. 449. Because Perkins had not been “ ‘dismissed for misconduct ... [or upon] the sentence of a court-martial,’ ” the Court agreed that he was “ ‘still in office and ... entitled to [his] pay.’ ” Ibid.

When Perkins was decided in 1886, the Secretary of the Navy was a principal officer and the head of a department, see Rev. Stat. § 415, and the Tenure of Office Act purported to require Senate consent for his removal. Ch. 154, 14 Stat. 430, Rev. Stat. § 1767. This requirement was widely regarded as unconstitutional and void (as it is universally regarded today), and it was repealed the next year. See Act of Mar. 3, 1887, ch. 353, 24 Stat. 500; Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 167–168, 47 S.Ct. 21, 71 L.Ed. 160 (1926); see also Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 726, 106 S.Ct. 3181, 92 L.Ed.2d 583 (1986). Perkins cannot be read to endorse any such restriction, much less in combination with further restrictions on the removal of inferiors. The Court of Claims opinion adopted verbatim by this Court addressed only the authority of the Secretary of the Navy to remove inferior officers.

We again considered the status of inferior officers in Morrison. That case concerned the Ethics in Government Act, which provided for an independent counsel to investigate allegations of crime by high executive officers. The counsel was appointed by a special court, wielded the full powers of a prosecutor, and was removable by the Attorney General only “ ‘for good cause.’ ” 487 U.S., at 663, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 596(a)(1)). We recognized that the independent counsel was undoubtedly an executive officer, rather than “ ‘quasi-legislative’ ” or “ ‘quasi-judicial,’ ” but we stated as “our present considered view” that Congress had power to impose good-cause restrictions on her removal. 487 U.S., at 689–691, 108 S.Ct. 2597. The Court noted that the statute “g[a]ve the Attorney General,” an officer directly responsible to the President and “through [whom]” the President could act, “several means of supervising or controlling” the independent counsel—“[m]ost importantly ... the power to remove the counsel for good cause.” Id., at 695–696, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (internal quotation marks omitted). Under those circumstances, the Court sustained the statute. Morrison did not, however, address the consequences of more than one level of good-cause tenure—leaving the issue, as both the court and dissent below recognized, “a question of first impression” in this Court. 537 F.3d, at 679; see id., at 698, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (dissenting opinion).


As explained, we have previously upheld limited restrictions on the President's removal power. In those cases, however, only one level of protected tenure separated the President from an officer exercising executive power. It was the President—or a subordinate he could remove at will—who decided whether the officer's conduct merited removal under the good-cause standard.

The Act before us does something quite different. It not only protects Board members from removal except for good cause, but withdraws from the President any decision on whether that good cause exists. That decision is vested instead in other tenured officers—the Commissioners—none of whom is subject to the President's direct control. The result is a Board that is not accountable to the President, and a President who is not responsible for the Board.

The added layer of tenure protection makes a difference. Without a layer of insulation between the Commission and the Board, the Commission could remove a Board member at any time, and therefore would be fully responsible for what the Board does. The President could then hold the Commission to account for its supervision of the Board, to the same extent that he may hold the Commission to account for everything else it does.

A second level of tenure protection changes the nature of the President's review. Now the Commission cannot remove a Board member at will. The President therefore cannot hold the Commission fully accountable for the Board's conduct, to the same extent that he may hold the Commission accountable for everything else that it does. The Commissioners are not responsible for the Board's actions. They are only responsible for their own determination of whether the Act's rigorous good-cause standard is met. And even if the President disagrees with their determination, he is powerless to intervene—unless that determination is so unreasonable as to constitute “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” Humphrey's Executor, 295 U.S., at 620, 55 S.Ct. 869 (internal quotation marks omitted).

This novel structure does not merely add to the Board's independence, but transforms it. Neither the President, nor anyone directly responsible to him, nor even an officer whose conduct he may review only for good cause, has full control over the Board. The President is stripped of the power our precedents have preserved, and his ability to execute the laws—by holding his subordinates accountable for their conduct—is impaired.

That arrangement is contrary to Article II's vesting of the executive power in the President. Without the ability to oversee the Board, or to attribute the Board's failings to those whom he can oversee, the President is no longer the judge of the Board's conduct. He is not the one who decides whether Board members are abusing their offices or neglecting their duties. He can neither ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, nor be held responsible for a Board member's breach of faith. This violates the basic principle that the President “cannot delegate ultimate responsibility or the active obligation to supervise that goes with it,” because Article II “makes a single President responsible for the actions of the Executive Branch.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 712–713, 117 S.Ct. 1636, 137 L.Ed.2d 945 (1997) (BREYER, J., concurring in judgment).

Contrary to the dissent's suggestion, post, at 12–14 (opinion of BREYER, J.), the second layer of tenure protection does compromise the President's ability to remove a Board member the Commission wants to retain. Without a second layer of protection, the Commission has no excuse for retaining an officer who is not faithfully executing the law. With the second layer in place, the Commission can shield its decision from Presidential review by finding that good cause is absent—a finding that, given the Commission's own protected tenure, the President cannot easily overturn. The dissent describes this conflict merely as one of four possible “scenarios,” see post, at 3170 – 3172, but it is the central issue in this case: The second layer matters precisely when the President finds it necessary to have a subordinate officer removed, and a statute prevents him from doing so.

Indeed, if allowed to stand, this dispersion of responsibility could be multiplied. If Congress can shelter the bureaucracy behind two layers of good-cause tenure, why not a third? At oral argument, the Government was unwilling to concede that even five layers between the President and the Board would be too many. Tr. of Oral Arg. 47–48. The officers of such an agency—safely encased within a Matryoshka doll of tenure protections—would be immune from Presidential oversight, even as they exercised power in the people's name. Perhaps an individual President might find advantages in tying his own hands. But the separation of powers does not depend on the views of individual Presidents, see Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 879–880, 111 S.Ct. 2631, 115 L.Ed.2d 764 (1991), nor on whether “the encroached-upon branch approves the encroachment,” New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 182, 112 S.Ct. 2408, 120 L.Ed.2d 120 (1992). The President can always choose to restrain himself in his dealings with subordinates. He cannot, however, choose to bind his successors by diminishing their powers, nor can he escape responsibility for his choices by pretending that they are not his own.

The diffusion of power carries with it a diffusion of accountability. The people do not vote for the “Officers of the United States.” Art. II, § 2, cl. 2. They instead look to the President to guide the “assistants or deputies ... subject to his superintendence.” The Federalist No. 72, p. 487 (J. Cooke ed.1961) (A. Hamilton). Without a clear and effective chain of command, the public cannot “determine on whom the blame or the punishment of a pernicious measure, or series of pernicious measures ought really to fall.” Id., No. 70, at 476 (same). That is why the Framers sought to ensure that “those who are employed in the execution of the law will be in their proper situation, and the chain of dependence be preserved; the lowest officers, the middle grade, and the highest, will depend, as they ought, on the President, and the President on the community.” 1 Annals of Cong., at 499 (J. Madison).

By granting the Board executive power without the Executive's oversight, this Act subverts the President's ability to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed—as well as the public's ability to pass judgment on his efforts. The Act's restrictions are incompatible with the Constitution's separation of powers.


Respondents and the dissent resist this conclusion, portraying the Board as “the kind of practical accommodation between the Legislature and the Executive that should be permitted in a ‘workable government.’ ” Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority v. Citizens for Abatement of Aircraft Noise, Inc., 501 U.S. 252, 276, 111 S.Ct. 2298, 115 L.Ed.2d 236 (1991) (MWAA ) (quoting Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635, 72 S.Ct. 863, 96 L.Ed. 1153 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring)); see, e.g., post, at 6 (opinion of BREYER, J.). According to the dissent, Congress may impose multiple levels of for-cause tenure between the President and his subordinates when it “rests agency independence upon the need for technical expertise.” Post, at 18. The Board's mission is said to demand both “technical competence” and “apolitical expertise,” and its powers may only be exercised by “technical experts.” Ibid, (internal quotation marks omitted). In this respect the statute creating the Board is, we are told, simply one example of the “vast numbers of statutes governing vast numbers of subjects, concerned with vast numbers of different problems, [that] provide for, or foresee, their execution or administration through the work of administrators organized within many different kinds of administrative structures, exercising different kinds of administrative authority, to achieve their legislatively mandated objectives.” Post, at 8.

No one doubts Congress's power to create a vast and varied federal bureaucracy. But where, in all this, is the role for oversight by an elected President? The Constitution requires that a President chosen by the entire Nation oversee the execution of the laws. And the “ ‘fact that a given law or procedure is efficient, convenient, and useful in facilitating functions of government, standing alone, will not save it if it is contrary to the Constitution,’ ” for “ ‘[c]onvenience and efficiency are not the primary objectives—or the hallmarks—of democratic government.’ ” Bowsher, 478 U.S., at 736, 106 S.Ct. 3181 (quoting Chadha, 462 U.S., at 944, 103 S.Ct. 2764).

One can have a government that functions without being ruled by functionaries, and a government that benefits from expertise without being ruled by experts. Our Constitution was adopted to enable the people to govern themselves, through their elected leaders. The growth of the Executive Branch, which now wields vast power and touches almost every aspect of daily life, heightens the concern that it may slip from the Executive's control, and thus from that of the people. This concern is largely absent from the dissent's paean to the administrative state.

For example, the dissent dismisses the importance of removal as a tool of supervision, concluding that the President's “power to get something done” more often depends on “who controls the agency's budget requests and funding, the relationships between one agency or department and another, ... purely political factors (including Congress' ability to assert influence),” and indeed whether particular unelected officials support or “resist” the President's policies. Post, at 11, 13 (emphasis deleted). The Framers did not rest our liberties on such bureaucratic minutiae. As we said in Bowsher, supra, at 730, 106 S.Ct. 3181, “[t]he separated powers of our Government cannot be permitted to turn on judicial assessment of whether an officer exercising executive power is on good terms with Congress.”

In fact, the multilevel protection that the dissent endorses “provides a blueprint for extensive expansion of the legislative power.” MWAA, supra, at 277, 111 S.Ct. 2298. In a system of checks and balances, “[p]ower abhors a vacuum,” and one branch's handicap is another's strength. 537 F.3d, at 695, n. 4 (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Even when a branch does not arrogate power to itself,” therefore, it must not “impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties.” Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 757, 116 S.Ct. 1737, 135 L.Ed.2d 36 (1996). Congress has plenary control over the salary, duties, and even existence of executive offices. Only Presidential oversight can counter its influence. That is why the Constitution vests certain powers in the President that “the Legislature has no right to diminish or modify.” 1 Annals of Cong., at 463 (J. Madison).

The dissent quotes Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 138, 96 S.Ct. 612, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976) (per curiam ), for the proposition that Congress has “broad authority to ‘create’ governmental ‘ “offices” ’ and to structure those offices ‘as it chooses.’ ” Post, at 3165. The Buckley Court put “ ‘offices' ” in quotes because it was actually describing legislative positions that are not really offices at all (at least not under Article II). That is why the very next sentence of Buckley said, “But Congress' power ... is inevitably bounded by the express language” of the Constitution. 424 U.S., at 138–139, 96 S.Ct. 612 (emphasis added).

The dissent attributes to Madison a belief that some executive officers, such as the Comptroller, could be made independent of the President. See post, at 3173 – 3174. But Madison's actual proposal, consistent with his view of the Constitution, was that the Comptroller hold office for a term of “years, unless sooner removed by the President”; he would thus be “dependent upon the President, because he can be removed by him,” and also “dependent upon the Senate, because they must consent to his [reappointment] for every term of years.” 1 Annals of Cong. 612 (1789).

The Framers created a structure in which “[a] dependence on the people” would be the “primary control on the government.” The Federalist No. 51, at 349 (J. Madison). That dependence is maintained, not just by “ parchment barriers,” id., No. 48, at 333 (same), but by letting “ [a]mbition ... counteract ambition,” giving each branch “the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others,” id., No. 51, at 349. A key “constitutional means” vested in the President—perhaps the key means—was “the power of appointing, overseeing, and controlling those who execute the laws.” 1 Annals of Cong., at 463. And while a government of “opposite and rival interests” may sometimes inhibit the smooth functioning of administration, The Federalist No. 51, at 349, “[t]he Framers recognized that, in the long term, structural protections against abuse of power were critical to preserving liberty.” Bowsher, supra, at 730, 106 S.Ct. 3181.

Calls to abandon those protections in light of “the era's perceived necessity,” New York, 505 U.S., at 187, 112 S.Ct. 2408, are not unusual. Nor is the argument from bureaucratic expertise limited only to the field of accounting. The failures of accounting regulation may be a “pressing national problem,” but “a judiciary that licensed extraconstitutional government with each issue of comparable gravity would, in the long run, be far worse.” Id., at 187–188, 112 S.Ct. 2408. Neither respondents nor the dissent explains why the Board's task, unlike so many others, requires more than one layer of insulation from the President—or, for that matter, why only two. The point is not to take issue with for-cause limitations in general; we do not do that. The question here is far more modest. We deal with the unusual situation, never before addressed by the Court, of two layers of for-cause tenure. And though it may be criticized as “elementary arithmetical logic,” post, at 23, two layers are not the same as one.

The President has been given the power to oversee executive officers; he is not limited, as in Harry Truman's lament, to “persuad[ing]” his unelected subordinates “to do what they ought to do without persuasion.” Post, at 11 (internal quotation marks omitted). In its pursuit of a “ workable government,” Congress cannot reduce the Chief Magistrate to a cajoler-in-chief.


The United States concedes that some constraints on the removal of inferior executive officers might violate the Constitution. See Brief for United States 47. It contends, however, that the removal restrictions at issue here do not.

To begin with, the Government argues that the Commission's removal power over the Board is “broad,” and could be construed as broader still, if necessary to avoid invalidation. See, e.g., id., at 51, and n. 19; cf. PCAOB Brief 22–23. But the Government does not contend that simple disagreement with the Board's policies or priorities could constitute “good cause” for its removal. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 41–43, 45–46. Nor do our precedents suggest as much. Humphrey's Executor, for example, rejected a removal premised on a lack of agreement “ ‘on either the policies or the administering of the Federal Trade Commission,’ ” because the FTC was designed to be “ ‘independent in character,’ ” “free from ‘political domination or control,’ ” and not “ ‘subject to anybody in the government’ ” or “ ‘to the orders of the President.’ ” 295 U.S., at 619, 625, 55 S.Ct. 869. Accord, Morrison, 487 U.S., at 693, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (noting that “the congressional determination to limit the removal power of the Attorney General was essential ... to establish the necessary independence of the office”); Wiener v. United States, 357 U.S. 349, 356, 78 S.Ct. 1275, 2 L.Ed.2d 1377 (1958) (describing for-cause removal as “involving the rectitude” of an officer). And here there is judicial review of any effort to remove Board members, see 15 U.S.C. § 78y(a)(1), so the Commission will not have the final word on the propriety of its own removal orders. The removal restrictions set forth in the statute mean what they say.

Indeed, this case presents an even more serious threat to executive control than an “ordinary” dual for-cause standard. Congress enacted an unusually high standard that must be met before Board members may be removed. A Board member cannot be removed except for willful violations of the Act, Board rules, or the securities laws; willful abuse of authority; or unreasonable failure to enforce compliance—as determined in a formal Commission order, rendered on the record and after notice and an opportunity for a hearing. § 7217(d)(3); see § 78y(a). The Act does not even give the Commission power to fire Board members for violations of other laws that do not relate to the Act, the securities laws, or the Board's authority. The President might have less than full confidence in, say, a Board member who cheats on his taxes; but that discovery is not listed among the grounds for removal under § 7217(d)(3).

The Government implausibly argues that § 7217(d)(3) “does not expressly make its three specified grounds of removal exclusive,” and that “the Act could be construed to permit other grounds.” Brief for United States 51, n. 19. But having provided in § 7211(e)(6) that Board members are to be removed “in accordance with [§ 7217(d)(3) ], for good cause shown,” Congress would not have specified the necessary Commission finding in § 7217(d)(3)—including formal procedures and detailed conditions—if Board members could also be removed without any finding at all. Cf. PCAOB Brief 6 (“Cause exists where” the § 7217(d)(3) conditions are met).

The rigorous standard that must be met before a Board member may be removed was drawn from statutes concerning private organizations like the New York Stock Exchange. Cf. §§ 78s(h)(4), 7217(d)(3). While we need not decide the question here, a removal standard appropriate for limiting Government control over private bodies may be inappropriate for officers wielding the executive power of the United States.

Alternatively, respondents portray the Act's limitations on removal as irrelevant, because—as the Court of Appeals held—the Commission wields “at-will removal power over Board functions if not Board members.” 537 F.3d, at 683 (emphasis added); accord, Brief for United States 27–28; PCAOB Brief 48. The Commission's general “oversight and enforcement authority over the Board,” § 7217(a), is said to “blun[t] the constitutional impact of for-cause removal,” 537 F.3d, at 683, and to leave the President no worse off than “if Congress had lodged the Board's functions in the SEC's own staff,” PCAOB Brief 15.

Broad power over Board functions is not equivalent to the power to remove Board members. The Commission may, for example, approve the Board's budget, § 7219(b), issue binding regulations, §§ 7202(a), 7217(b)(5), relieve the Board of authority, § 7217(d)(1), amend Board sanctions, § 7217(c), or enforce Board rules on its own, §§ 7202(b)(1), (c). But altering the budget or powers of an agency as a whole is a problematic way to control an inferior officer. The Commission cannot wield a free hand to supervise individual members if it must destroy the Board in order to fix it.

Even if Commission power over Board activities could substitute for authority over its members, we would still reject respondents' premise that the Commission's power in this regard is plenary. As described above, the Board is empowered to take significant enforcement actions, and does so largely independently of the Commission. Seesupra, at 3–4. Its powers are, of course, subject to some latent Commission control. Seesupra, at 4–5. But the Act nowhere gives the Commission effective power to start, stop, or alter individual Board investigations, executive activities typically carried out by officials within the Executive Branch.

The Government and the dissent suggest that the Commission could govern and direct the Board's daily exercise of prosecutorial discretion by promulgating new SEC rules, or by amending those of the Board. Brief for United States 27; post, at 15. Enacting general rules through the required notice and comment procedures is obviously a poor means of micromanaging the Board's affairs. See §§ 78s(c), 7215(b)(1), 7217(b)(5); cf. 5 U.S.C. § 553, 15 U.S.C. § 7202(a), PCAOB Brief 24, n. 6. So the Government offers another proposal, that the Commission require the Board by rule to “secure SEC approval for any actions that it now may take itself.” Brief for United States 27. That would surely constitute one of the “limitations upon the activities, functions, and operations of the Board” that the Act forbids, at least without Commission findings equivalent to those required to fire the Board instead. § 7217(d)(2). The Board thus has significant independence in determining its priorities and intervening in the affairs of regulated firms (and the lives of their associated persons) without Commission preapproval or direction.

Contrary to the dissent's assertions, see post, at –––– – ––––, the Commission's powers to conduct its own investigations (with its own resources), to remove particular provisions of law from the Board's bailiwick, or to require the Board to perform functions “other” than inspections and investigations, § 7211(c)(5), are no more useful in directing individual enforcement actions.

Finally, respondents suggest that our conclusion is contradicted by the past practice of Congress. But the Sarbanes–Oxley Act is highly unusual in committing substantial executive authority to officers protected by two layers of for-cause removal—including at one level a sharply circumscribed definition of what constitutes “good cause,” and rigorous procedures that must be followed prior to removal.

The parties have identified only a handful of isolated positions in which inferior officers might be protected by two levels of good-cause tenure. See, e.g., PCAOB Brief 43. As Judge Kavanaugh noted in dissent below:

“Perhaps the most telling indication of the severe constitutional problem with the PCAOB is the lack of historical precedent for this entity. Neither the majority opinion nor the PCAOB nor the United States as intervenor has located any historical analogues for this novel structure. They have not identified any independent agency other than the PCAOB that is appointed by

and removable only for cause by another independent agency.” 537 F.3d, at 699.

The dissent here suggests that other such positions might exist, and complains that we do not resolve their status in this opinion. Post, at 23–31. The dissent itself, however, stresses the very size and variety of the Federal Government, see post, at 7–8, and those features discourage general pronouncements on matters neither briefed nor argued here. In any event, the dissent fails to support its premonitions of doom; none of the positions it identifies are similarly situated to the Board. See post, at 28–31.

For example, many civil servants within independent agencies would not qualify as “Officers of the United States,” who “exercis[e] significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States,” Buckley, 424 U.S., at 126, 96 S.Ct. 612. The parties here concede that Board members are executive “Officers,” as that term is used in the Constitution. See supra, at 4; see also Art. II, § 2, cl. 2. We do not decide the status of other Government employees, nor do we decide whether “lesser functionaries subordinate to officers of the United States” must be subject to the same sort of control as those who exercise “significant authority pursuant to the laws.” Buckley, supra, at 126, and n. 162, 96 S.Ct. 612.

One “may be an agent or employee working for the government and paid by it, as nine-tenths of the persons rendering service to the government undoubtedly are, without thereby becoming its office[r].” United States v. Germaine, 99 U.S. 508, 509 (1879). The applicable proportion has of course increased dramatically since 1879.

Nor do the employees referenced by the dissent enjoy the same significant and unusual protections from Presidential oversight as members of the Board. Senior or policymaking positions in government may be excepted from the competitive service to ensure Presidential control, see 5 U.S.C. §§ 2302(a)(2)(B), 3302, 7511(b)(2), and members of the Senior Executive Service may be reassigned or reviewed by agency heads (and entire agencies may be excluded from that Service by the President), see, e.g., §§ 3132 (c), 3395(a), 4312(d), 4314(b)(3), (c)(3); cf. § 2302(a)(2)(B)(ii). While the full extent of that authority is not before us, any such authority is of course wholly absent with respect to the Board. Nothing in our opinion, therefore, should be read to cast doubt on the use of what is colloquially known as the civil service system within independent agencies.

For similar reasons, our holding also does not address that subset of independent agency employees who serve as administrative law judges. See, e.g., 5 U.S.C. §§ 556(c), 3105. Whether administrative law judges are necessarily “Officers of the United States” is disputed. See, e.g., Landry v. FDIC, 204 F.3d 1125 (C.A.D.C.2000). And unlike members of the Board, many administrative law judges of course perform adjudicative rather than enforcement or policymaking functions, see §§ 554(d), 3105, or possess purely recommendatory powers. The Government below refused to identify either “civil service tenure-protected employees in independent agencies” or administrative law judges as “precedent for the PCAOB.” 537 F.3d 667, 699, n. 8 (C.A.D.C.2008) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting); see Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 07–5127 (CADC), pp. 32, 37–38, 42.

Finally, the dissent wanders far afield when it suggests that today's opinion might increase the President's authority to remove military officers. Without expressing any view whatever on the scope of that authority, it is enough to note that we see little analogy between our Nation's armed services and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Military officers are broadly subject to Presidential control through the chain of command and through the President's powers as Commander in Chief. Art. II, § 2, cl. 1; see, e.g., 10 U.S.C. §§ 162, 164(g). The President and his subordinates may also convene boards of inquiry or courts-martial to hear claims of misconduct or poor performance by those officers. See, e.g., §§ 822(a)(1), 823(a)(1), 892(3), 933–934, 1181–1185. Here, by contrast, the President has no authority to initiate a Board member's removal for cause.

There is no reason for us to address whether these positions identified by the dissent, or any others not at issue in this case, are so structured as to infringe the President's constitutional authority. Nor is there any substance to the dissent's concern that the “work of all these various officials” will “be put on hold.” Post, at 31. As the judgment in this case demonstrates, restricting certain officers to a single level of insulation from the President affects the conditions under which those officers might someday be removed, and would have no effect, absent a congressional determination to the contrary, on the validity of any officer's continuance in office. The only issue in this case is whether Congress may deprive the President of adequate control over the Board, which is the regulator of first resort and the primary law enforcement authority for a vital sector of our economy. We hold that it cannot.


Petitioners' complaint argued that the Board's “freedom from Presidential oversight and control” rendered it “and all power and authority exercised by it” in violation of the Constitution. App. 46. We reject such a broad holding. Instead, we agree with the Government that the unconstitutional tenure provisions are severable from the remainder of the statute.

“Generally speaking, when confronting a constitutional flaw in a statute, we try to limit the solution to the problem,” severing any “problematic portions while leaving the remainder intact.” Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New Eng., 546 U.S. 320, 328–329, 126 S.Ct. 961, 163 L.Ed.2d 812 (2006). Because “[t]he unconstitutionality of a part of an Act does not necessarily defeat or affect the validity of its remaining provisions,” Champlin Refining Co. v. Corporation Comm'n of Okla., 286 U.S. 210, 234, 52 S.Ct. 559, 76 L.Ed. 1062 (1932), the “normal rule” is “that partial, rather than facial, invalidation is the required course,” Brockett v. Spokane Arcades, Inc., 472 U.S. 491, 504, 105 S.Ct. 2794, 86 L.Ed.2d 394 (1985). Putting to one side petitioners' Appointments Clause challenges (addressed below), the existence of the Board does not violate the separation of powers, but the substantive removal restrictions imposed by 15 U.S.C. §§ 7211(e)(6) and 7217(d)(3) do. Under the traditional default rule, removal is incident to the power of appointment. See, e.g., Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 70, n. 17, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974); Myers, 272 U.S., at 119, 47 S.Ct. 21; Ex parte Hennen, 13 Pet., at 259–260. Concluding that the removal restrictions are invalid leaves the Board removable by the Commission at will, and leaves the President separated from Board members by only a single level of good-cause tenure. The Commission is then fully responsible for the Board's actions, which are no less subject than the Commission's own functions to Presidential oversight.

The Sarbanes–Oxley Act remains “ ‘fully operative as a law’ ” with these tenure restrictions excised. New York, 505 U.S., at 186, 112 S.Ct. 2408 (quoting Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock, 480 U.S. 678, 684, 107 S.Ct. 1476, 94 L.Ed.2d 661 (1987)). We therefore must sustain its remaining provisions “[u]nless it is evident that the Legislature would not have enacted those provisions ... independently of that which is [invalid].” Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). Though this inquiry can sometimes be “elusive,” Chadha, 462 U.S., at 932, 103 S.Ct. 2764, the answer here seems clear: The remaining provisions are not “incapable of functioning independently,” Alaska Airlines, 480 U.S., at 684, 107 S.Ct. 1476, and nothing in the statute's text or historical context makes it “evident” that Congress, faced with the limitations imposed by the Constitution, would have preferred no Board at all to a Board whose members are removable at will. Ibid.; see also Ayotte, supra, at 330, 126 S.Ct. 961.

It is true that the language providing for good-cause removal is only one of a number of statutory provisions that, working together, produce a constitutional violation. In theory, perhaps, the Court might blue-pencil a sufficient number of the Board's responsibilities so that its members would no longer be “Officers of the United States.” Or we could restrict the Board's enforcement powers, so that it would be a purely recommendatory panel. Or the Board members could in future be made removable by the President, for good cause or at will. But such editorial freedom—far more extensive than our holding today—belongs to the Legislature, not the Judiciary. Congress of course remains free to pursue any of these options going forward.


Petitioners raise three more challenges to the Board under the Appointments Clause. None has merit.

First, petitioners argue that Board members are principal officers requiring Presidential appointment with the Senate's advice and consent. We held in Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651, 662–663, 117 S.Ct. 1573, 137 L.Ed.2d 917 (1997), that “[w]hether one is an ‘inferior’ officer depends on whether he has a superior,” and that “ ‘inferior officers' are officers whose work is directed and supervised at some level” by other officers appointed by the President with the Senate's consent. In particular, we noted that “[t]he power to remove officers” at will and without cause “is a powerful tool for control” of an inferior. Id., at 664, 117 S.Ct. 1573. As explained above, the statutory restrictions on the Commission's power to remove Board members are unconstitutional and void. Given that the Commission is properly viewed, under the Constitution, as possessing the power to remove Board members at will, and given the Commission's other oversight authority, we have no hesitation in concluding that under Edmond the Board members are inferior officers whose appointment Congress may permissibly vest in a “Hea[d] of Departmen[t].”

But, petitioners argue, the Commission is not a “Departmen[t]” like the “Executive departments” (e.g., State, Treasury, Defense) listed in 5 U.S.C. § 101. In Freytag, 501 U.S., at 887, n. 4, 111 S.Ct. 2631, we specifically reserved the question whether a “principal agenc[y], such as ... the Securities and Exchange Commission,” is a “Departmen[t]” under the Appointments Clause. Four Justices, however, would have concluded that the Commission is indeed such a “Departmen[t],” see id., at 918, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment), because it is a “free-standing, self-contained entity in the Executive Branch,” id., at 915, 111 S.Ct. 2631.

Respondents urge us to adopt this reasoning as to those entities not addressed by our opinion in Freytag, see Brief for United States 37–39; PCAOB Brief 30–33, and we do. Respondents' reading of the Appointments Clause is consistent with the common, near-contemporary definition of a “department” as a “separate allotment or part of business; a distinct province, in which a class of duties are allotted to a particular person.” 1 N. Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) (def.2) (1995 facsimile ed.). It is also consistent with the early practice of Congress, which in 1792 authorized the Postmaster General to appoint “an assistant, and deputy postmasters, at all places where such shall be found necessary,” § 3, 1 Stat. 234—thus treating him as the “Hea[d] of [a] Departmen[t]” without the title of Secretary or any role in the President's Cabinet. And it is consistent with our prior cases, which have never invalidated an appointment made by the head of such an establishment. See Freytag, supra, at 917, 111 S.Ct. 2631; cf. Burnap v. United States, 252 U.S. 512, 515, 40 S.Ct. 374, 64 L.Ed. 692 (1920); United States v. Germaine, 99 U.S. 508, 511, 25 L.Ed. 482 (1879). Because the Commission is a freestanding component of the Executive Branch, not subordinate to or contained within any other such component, it constitutes a “Departmen[t]” for the purposes of the Appointments Clause.

We express no view on whether the Commission is thus an “executive Departmen[t]” under the Opinions Clause, Art. II, § 2, cl. 1, or under Section 4 of the Twenty–Fifth Amendment. See Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 886–887, 111 S.Ct. 2631, 115 L.Ed.2d 764 (1991).

But petitioners are not done yet. They argue that the full Commission cannot constitutionally appoint Board members, because only the Chairman of the Commission is the Commission's “Hea[d].” The Commission's powers, however, are generally vested in the Commissioners jointly, not the Chairman alone. See, e.g., 15 U.S.C. §§ 77s, 77t, 78u, 78w. The Commissioners do not report to the Chairman, who exercises administrative and executive functions subject to the full Commission's policies. See Reorg. Plan No. 10 of 1950, § 1(b)(1), 64 Stat. 1265. The Chairman is also appointed from among the Commissioners by the President alone, id., § 3, at 1266, which means that he cannot be regarded as “the head of an agency” for purposes of the Reorganization Act. See 5 U.S.C. § 904. (The Commission as a whole, on the other hand, does meet the requirements of the Act, including its provision that “the head of an agency [may] be an individual or a commission or board with more than one member.”)

The Board argued below that petitioners lack standing to raise this claim, because no member of the Board has been appointed over the Chairman's objection, and so petitioners' injuries are not fairly traceable to an invalid appointment. See Defendants' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to Dismiss the Complaint in Civil Action No. 1:06–cv–00217–JR (DC), Doc. 17, pp. 42–43; Brief for Appellees PCAOB et al. in No. 07–5127 (CADC), pp. 32–33. We cannot assume, however, that the Chairman would have made the same appointments acting alone; and petitioners' standing does not require precise proof of what the Board's policies might have been in that counterfactual world. See Glidden Co. v. Zdanok, 370 U.S. 530, 533, 82 S.Ct. 1459, 8 L.Ed.2d 671 (1962) (plurality opinion).

Petitioners contend that finding the Commission to be the head will invalidate numerous appointments made directly by the Chairman, such as those of the “heads of major [SEC] administrative units.” Reorg. Plan No. 10, § 1(b)(2), at 1266. Assuming, however, that these individuals are officers of the United States, their appointment is still made “subject to the approval of the Commission.” Ibid. We have previously found that the department head's approval satisfies the Appointments Clause, in precedents that petitioners do not ask us to revisit. See, e.g., United States v. Smith, 124 U.S. 525, 532, 8 S.Ct. 595, 31 L.Ed. 534 (1888); Germaine, 99 U.S., at 511; United States v. Hartwell, 6 Wall. 385, 393–394, 18 L.Ed. 830 (1868).

As a constitutional matter, we see no reason why a multimember body may not be the “Hea[d]” of a “Departmen[t]” that it governs. The Appointments Clause necessarily contemplates collective appointments by the “ Courts of Law,” Art. II, § 2, cl. 2, and each House of Congress, too, appoints its officers collectively, see Art. I, § 2, cl. 5; id., § 3, cl. 5. Petitioners argue that the Framers vested the nomination of principal officers in the President to avoid the perceived evils of collective appointments, but they reveal no similar concern with respect to inferior officers, whose appointments may be vested elsewhere, including in multimember bodies. Practice has also sanctioned the appointment of inferior officers by multimember agencies. See Freytag, supra, at 918, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment); see also Classification Act of 1923, ch. 265, § 2, 42 Stat. 1488 (defining “the head of the department” to mean “the officer or group of officers ... who are not subordinate or responsible to any other officer of the department” (emphasis added)); 37 Op. Atty. Gen. 227, 231 (1933) (endorsing collective appointment by the Civil Service Commission). We conclude that the Board members have been validly appointed by the full Commission.

In light of the foregoing, petitioners are not entitled to broad injunctive relief against the Board's continued operations. But they are entitled to declaratory relief sufficient to ensure that the reporting requirements and auditing standards to which they are subject will be enforced only by a constitutional agency accountable to the Executive. See Bowsher, 478 U.S., at 727, n. 5, 106 S.Ct. 3181 (concluding that a separation-of-powers violation may create a “here-and-now” injury that can be remedied by a court (internal quotation marks omitted)).

* * *

The Constitution that makes the President accountable to the people for executing the laws also gives him the power to do so. That power includes, as a general matter, the authority to remove those who assist him in carrying out his duties. Without such power, the President could not be held fully accountable for discharging his own responsibilities; the buck would stop somewhere else. Such diffusion of authority “would greatly diminish the intended and necessary responsibility of the chief magistrate himself.” The Federalist No. 70, at 478.

While we have sustained in certain cases limits on the President's removal power, the Act before us imposes a new type of restriction—two levels of protection from removal for those who nonetheless exercise significant executive power. Congress cannot limit the President's authority in this way.

The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

Justice BREYER, with whom Justice STEVENS, Justice GINSBURG, and Justice SOTOMAYOR join, dissenting.

The Court holds unconstitutional a statute providing that the Securities and Exchange Commission can remove members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board from office only for cause. It argues that granting the “inferior officer[s]” on the Accounting Board “more than one level of good-cause protection ... contravenes the President's ‘constitutional obligation to ensure the faithful execution of the laws.’ ” Ante, at 3147. I agree that the Accounting Board members are inferior officers. See ante, at 3179 – 3180. But in my view the statute does not significantly interfere with the President's “executive Power.” Art. II, § 1. It violates no separation-of-powers principle. And the Court's contrary holding threatens to disrupt severely the fair and efficient administration of the laws. I consequently dissent. I


The legal question before us arises at the intersection of two general constitutional principles. On the one hand, Congress has broad power to enact statutes “necessary and proper” to the exercise of its specifically enumerated constitutional authority. Art. I, § 8, cl. 18. As Chief Justice Marshall wrote for the Court nearly 200 years ago, the Necessary and Proper Clause reflects the Framers' efforts to create a Constitution that would “endure for ages to come.” McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316, 4 Wheat. 316, 415, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819). It embodies their recognition that it would be “unwise” to prescribe “the means by which government should, in all future time, execute its powers.” Ibid. Such “immutable rules” would deprive the Government of the needed flexibility to respond to future “exigencies which, if foreseen at all, must have been seen dimly.” Ibid. Thus the Necessary and Proper Clause affords Congress broad authority to “create” governmental “ ‘offices' ” and to structure those offices “as it chooses.” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 138, 96 S.Ct. 612, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976) (per curiam); cf. Lottery Case, 188 U.S. 321, 355, 23 S.Ct. 321, 47 L.Ed. 492 (1903). And Congress has drawn on that power over the past century to create numerous federal agencies in response to “various crises of human affairs” as they have arisen. McCulloch, supra, at 415 (emphasis deleted). Cf. Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, 339 U.S. 33, 36–37, 70 S.Ct. 445, 94 L.Ed. 616 (1950).

On the other hand, the opening sections of Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution separately and respectively vest “all legislative Powers” in Congress, the “executive Power” in the President, and the “judicial Power” in the Supreme Court (and such “inferior Courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish”). In doing so, these provisions imply a structural separation-of-powers principle. See, e.g., Miller v. French, 530 U.S. 327, 341–342, 120 S.Ct. 2246, 147 L.Ed.2d 326 (2000). And that principle, along with the instruction in Article II, § 3 that the President “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” limits Congress' power to structure the Federal Government. See, e.g., INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 946, 103 S.Ct. 2764, 77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983); Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 878, 111 S.Ct. 2631, 115 L.Ed.2d 764 (1991); Northern Pipeline Constr. Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co., 458 U.S. 50, 64, 102 S.Ct. 2858, 73 L.Ed.2d 598 (1982); Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Schor, 478 U.S. 833, 859–860, 106 S.Ct. 3245, 92 L.Ed.2d 675 (1986). Indeed, this Court has held that the separation-of-powers principle guarantees the President the authority to dismiss certain Executive Branch officials at will. Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 47 S.Ct. 21, 71 L.Ed. 160 (1926).

But neither of these two principles is absolute in its application to removal cases. The Necessary and Proper Clause does not grant Congress power to free all Executive Branch officials from dismissal at the will of the President. Ibid. Nor does the separation-of-powers principle grant the President an absolute authority to remove any and all Executive Branch officials at will. Rather, depending on, say, the nature of the office, its function, or its subject matter, Congress sometimes may, consistent with the Constitution, limit the President's authority to remove an officer from his post. See Humphrey's Executor

v. United States, 295 U.S. 602, 55 S.Ct. 869, 79 L.Ed. 1611 (1935), overruling in part Myers, supra ; Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 108 S.Ct. 2597, 101 L.Ed.2d 569 (1988). And we must here decide whether the circumstances surrounding the statute at issue justify such a limitation.

In answering the question presented, we cannot look to more specific constitutional text, such as the text of the Appointments Clause or the Presentment Clause, upon which the Court has relied in other separation-of-powers cases. See, e.g., Chadha, supra, at 946, 103 S.Ct. 2764; Buckley, supra, at 124–125, 96 S.Ct. 612. That is because, with the exception of the general “vesting” and “take care” language, the Constitution is completely “silent with respect to the power of removal from office.” Ex parte Hennen, 13 Pet. 230, 258 (1839); see also Morrison,

supra, at 723, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (SCALIA, J., dissenting) (“There is, of course, no provision in the Constitution stating who may remove executive officers ...”).

Nor does history offer significant help. The President's power to remove Executive Branch officers “was not discussed in the Constitutional Convention.” Myers, supra, at 109–110, 47 S.Ct. 21. The First Congress enacted federal statutes that limited the President's ability to oversee Executive Branch officials, including the Comptroller of the United States, federal district attorneys (precursors to today's United States Attorneys), and, to a lesser extent, the Secretary of the Treasury. See, e.g., Lessig, Readings by Our Unitary Executive, 15 Cardozo L.Rev. 175, 183–184 (1993); Tiefer, The Constitutionality of Independent Officers as Checks on Abuses of Executive Power, 63 B.U.L.Rev. 59, 74–75 (1983); Casper, An Essay in Separation of Powers: Some Early Versions and Practices, 30 Wm. & Mary L.Rev. 211, 240–241 (1989) (hereinafter Casper); H. Bruff, Balance of Forces: Separation of Powers Law in the Administrative State 414–417 (2006). But those statutes did not directly limit the President's authority to remove any of those officials—“a subject” that was “much disputed” during “the early history of this government,” “and upon which a great diversity of opinion was entertained.” Hennen, supra, at 259, 38 U.S. 230; see also United States ex rel. Goodrich v. Guthrie, 17 How. 284, 306, 15 L.Ed. 102 (1855) (McLean, J., dissenting); Casper 233–237 (recounting the Debate of 1789). Scholars, like Members of this Court, have continued to disagree, not only about the inferences that should be drawn from the inconclusive historical record, but also about the nature of the original disagreement. Compare ante, at 3151 – 3152; Myers, supra, at 114, 47 S.Ct. 21 (majority opinion of Taft, C. J.); and Prakash, New Light on the Decision of 1789, 91 Cornell L.Rev. 1021 (2006), with, e.g., Myers, supra, at 194, 47 S.Ct. 21 (McReynolds, J., dissenting); Corwin, Tenure of Office and the Removal Power Under the Constitution, 27 Colum. L.Rev. 353, 369 (1927); Lessig & Sunstein, The President and the Administration, 94 Colum. L.Rev. 1, 25–26 (1994) (hereinafter Lessig & Sunstein); and L. Fisher, President and Congress: Power and Policy 86–89 (1972).

Nor does this Court's precedent fully answer the question presented. At least it does not clearly invalidate the provision in dispute. See Part II–C, infra. In Myers, supra, the Court invalidated—for the first and only time—a congressional statute on the ground that it unduly limited the President's authority to remove an Executive Branch official. But soon thereafter the Court expressly disapproved most of Myers' broad reasoning. See Humphrey's Executor, 295 U.S., at 626–627, 55 S.Ct. 869, overruling in part Myers, supra ; Wiener v. United States, 357 U.S. 349, 352, 78 S.Ct. 1275, 2 L.Ed.2d 1377 (1958) (stating that Humphrey's Executor “explicitly ‘disapproved’ ” of much of the reasoning in Myers ). Moreover, the Court has since said that “the essence of the decision in Myers was the judgment that the Constitution prevents Congress from ‘draw [ing] to itself ... the power to remove or the right to participate in the exercise of that power.’ ” Morrison, supra, at 686, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (emphasis added). And that feature of the statute—a feature that would aggrandize the power of Congress—is not present here. Congress has not granted itself any role in removing the members of the Accounting Board. Cf. Freytag, 501 U.S., at 878, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (“separation-of-powers jurisprudence generally focuses on the danger of one branch's aggrandizing its power at the expense of another branch” (emphasis added)); Buckley, 424 U.S., at 129, 96 S.Ct. 612 (same); Schor, 478 U.S., at 856, 106 S.Ct. 3245 (same); Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 727, 106 S.Ct. 3181, 92 L.Ed.2d 583 (1986) (same). Compare Myers, supra, (striking down statute where Congress granted itself removal authority over Executive Branch official), with Humphrey's Executor, supra, (upholding statute where such aggrandizing was absent); Wiener, supra (same); Morrison, supra (same).

In short, the question presented lies at the intersection of two sets of conflicting, broadly framed constitutional principles. And no text, no history, perhaps no precedent provides any clear answer. Cf. Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 106, 119 S.Ct. 1849, 144 L.Ed.2d 67 (1999) (THOMAS, J., joined by Rehnquist, C.J., and SCALIA, J., dissenting) (expressing the view that “this Court” is “most vulnerable” when “it deals with judge-made constitutional law” that lacks “roots in the language” of the Constitution (internal quotation marks omitted)).


When previously deciding this kind of nontextual question, the Court has emphasized the importance of examining how a particular provision, taken in context, is likely to function. Thus, in Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 53, 52 S.Ct. 285, 76 L.Ed. 598 (1932), a foundational separation-of-powers case, the Court said that “regard must be had, as in other cases where constitutional limits are invoked, not to mere matters of form, but to the substance of what is required.” The Court repeated this injunction in Schor and again in Morrison. See Schor, supra, at 854, 106 S.Ct. 3245 (stating that the Court must look “ ‘beyond form to the substance of what’ Congress has done”);Morrison, 487 U.S., at 689–691, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (“The analysis contained in our removal cases is designed not to define rigid categories of those officials who may or may not be removed at will by the President,” but rather asks whether, given the “functions of the officials in question,” a removal provision “interfere[s] with the President's exercise of the ‘executive power’ ” (emphasis added)). The Court has thereby written into law Justice Jackson's wise perception that “the Constitution ... contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635, 72 S.Ct. 863, 96 L.Ed. 1153 (1952) (opinion concurring in judgment) (emphasis added). See also ibid. (“The actual art of governing under our Constitution does not and cannot conform to judicial definitions of the power of any of its branches based on isolated clauses or even single Articles torn from context”).

It is not surprising that the Court in these circumstances has looked to function and context, and not to bright-line rules. For one thing, that approach embodies the intent of the Framers. As Chief Justice Marshall long ago observed, our Constitution is fashioned so as to allow the three coordinate branches, including this Court, to exercise practical judgment in response to changing conditions and “exigencies,” which at the time of the founding could be seen only “dimly,” and perhaps not at all. McCulloch, 4 Wheat., at 415.

For another, a functional approach permits Congress and the President the flexibility needed to adapt statutory law to changing circumstances. That is why the “powers conferred upon the Federal Government by the Constitution were phrased in language broad enough to allow for the expansion of the Federal Government's role” over time. New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 157, 112 S.Ct. 2408, 120 L.Ed.2d 120 (1992). Indeed, the Federal Government at the time of the founding consisted of about 2,000 employees and served a population of about 4 million. See Kaufman, The Growth of the Federal Personnel System, in The Federal Government Service 7, 8 (W. Sayre 2d ed.1965); Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, pt. 1, p. 8 (1975). Today, however, the Federal Government employs about 4.4 million workers who serve a Nation of more than 310 million people living in a society characterized by rapid technological, economic, and social change. See Office of Management and Budget, Analytical Perspectives, Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2010, p. 368 (2009).

Federal statutes now require or permit Government officials to provide, regulate, or otherwise administer, not only foreign affairs and defense, but also a wide variety of such subjects as taxes, welfare, social security, medicine, pharmaceutical drugs, education, highways, railroads, electricity, natural gas, nuclear power, financial instruments, banking, medical care, public health and safety, the environment, fair employment practices, consumer protection and much else besides. Those statutes create a host of different organizational structures. Sometimes they delegate administrative authority to the President directly, e.g., 10 U.S.C. § 2031(a)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 5192(c); sometimes they place authority in a long-established Cabinet department, e.g., 7 U.S.C. § 1637b(c)(1); 12 U.S.C. § 5221(b)(2) (2006 ed., Supp. II); sometimes they delegate authority to an independent commission or board, e.g., 15 U.S.C. § 4404(b); 28 U.S.C. § 994; sometimes they place authority directly in the hands of a single senior administrator, e.g., 15 U.S.C. § 657d(c)(4); 42 U.S.C. § 421; sometimes they place it in a subcabinet bureau, office, division or other agency, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 4048; sometimes they vest it in multimember or multiagency task groups, e.g. 5 U.S.C. §§ 593–594; 50 U.S.C. § 402 (2006 ed. and Supp. II); sometimes they vest it in commissions or advisory committees made up of members of more than one branch, e.g., 20 U.S.C. § 42(a); 28 U.S.C. § 991(a) (2006 ed., Supp. II); 42 U.S.C. § 1975; sometimes they divide it among groups of departments, commissions, bureaus, divisions, and administrators, e.g., 5 U.S.C. § 9902(a) (2006 ed., Supp. II); 7 U.S.C. § 136i–1(g); and sometimes they permit state or local governments to participate as well, e.g., 7 U.S.C. § 2009aa–1(a). Statutes similarly grant administrators a wide variety of powers—for example, the power to make rules, develop informal practices, investigate, adjudicate, impose sanctions, grant licenses, and provide goods, services, advice, and so forth. See generally 5 U.S.C. § 500 et seq.

The upshot is that today vast numbers of statutes governing vast numbers of subjects, concerned with vast numbers of different problems, provide for, or foresee, their execution or administration through the work of administrators organized within many different kinds of administrative structures, exercising different kinds of administrative authority, to achieve their legislatively mandated objectives. And, given the nature of the Government's work, it is not surprising that administrative units come in many different shapes and sizes. The functional approach required by our precedents recognizes this administrative complexity and, more importantly, recognizes the various ways presidential power operates within this context—and the various ways in which a removal provision might affect that power. As human beings have known ever since Ulysses tied himself to the mast so as safely to hear the Sirens' song, sometimes it is necessary to disable oneself in order to achieve a broader objective. Thus, legally enforceable commitments—such as contracts, statutes that cannot instantly be changed, and, as in the case before us, the establishment of independent administrative institutions—hold the potential to empower precisely because of their ability to constrain. If the President seeks to regulate through impartial adjudication, then insulation of the adjudicator from removal at will can help him achieve that goal. And to free a technical decisionmaker from the fear of removal without cause can similarly help create legitimacy with respect to that official's regulatory actions by helping to insulate his technical decisions from nontechnical political pressure.

Neither is power always susceptible to the equations of elementary arithmetic. A rule that takes power from a President's friends and allies may weaken him. But a rule that takes power from the President's opponents may strengthen him. And what if the rule takes power from a functionally neutral independent authority? In that case, it is difficult to predict how the President's power is affected in the abstract.

These practical reasons not only support our precedents' determination that cases such as this should examine the specific functions and context at issue; they also indicate that judges should hesitate before second-guessing a “for cause” decision made by the other branches. See, e.g., Chadha, 462 U.S., at 944, 103 S.Ct. 2764 (applying a “presumption that the challenged statute is valid”); Bowsher, 478 U.S., at 736, 106 S.Ct. 3181 (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment). Compared to Congress and the President, the Judiciary possesses an inferior understanding of the realities of administration, and the manner in which power, including and most especially political power, operates in context.

There is no indication that the two comparatively more expert branches were divided in their support for the “for cause” provision at issue here. In this case, the Act embodying the provision was passed by a vote of 423 to 3 in the House of Representatives and a by vote of 99 to 0 in the Senate. 148 Cong. Rec. 14458, 14505 (2002). The creation of the Accounting Board was discussed at great length in both bodies without anyone finding in its structure any constitutional problem. See id., at 12035–12037, 12112–12132, 12315–12323, 12372–12377, 12488–12508, 12529–12534, 12612–12618, 12673–12680, 12734–12751, 12915–12960, 13347–13354, 14439–14458, 14487–14506. The President signed the Act. And, when he did so, he issued a signing statement that critiqued multiple provisions of the Act but did not express any separation-of-powers concerns. See President's Statement on Signing the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, 38 Weekly Comp. of Pres. Doc. 1286 (2002). Cf. ABA, Report of Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine 15 (2006), online at statements_recommendation–report_7–24–06.pdf (all Internet materials as visited June 24, 2010, and available in Clerk of Court's case file) (noting that President Bush asserted “over 500” “constitutional objections” through signing statements “in his first term,” including 82 “related to his theory of the ‘unitary executive’ ”).

Thus, here, as in similar cases, we should decide the constitutional question in light of the provision's practical functioning in context. And our decision should take account of the Judiciary's comparative lack of institutional expertise. II


To what extent then is the Act's “for cause” provision likely, as a practical matter, to limit the President's exercise of executive authority? In practical terms no “for cause” provision can, in isolation, define the full measure of executive power. This is because a legislative decision to place ultimate administrative authority in, say, the Secretary of Agriculture rather than the President, the way in which the statute defines the scope of the power the relevant administrator can exercise, the decision as to who controls the agency's budget requests and funding, the relationships between one agency or department and another, as well as more purely political factors (including Congress' ability to assert influence) are more likely to affect the President's power to get something done. That is why President Truman complained that “ ‘the powers of the President amount to’ ” bringing “ ‘people in and try[ing] to persuade them to do what they ought to do without persuasion.’ ” C. Rossiter, The American Presidency 154 (2d rev. ed.1960). And that is why scholars have written that the President “is neither dominant nor powerless” in his relationships with many Government entities, “whether denominated executive or independent.” Strauss, The Place of Agencies in Government: Separation of Powers and the Fourth Branch, 84 Colum. L.Rev. 573, 583 (1984) (hereinafter Strauss). Those entities “are all subject to presidential direction in significant aspects of their functioning, and [are each] able to resist presidential direction in others.” Ibid. (emphasis added).

Indeed, notwithstanding the majority's assertion that the removal authority is “the key” mechanism by which the President oversees inferior officers in the independent agencies, ante, at 3157, it appears that no President has ever actually sought to exercise that power by testing the scope of a “for cause” provision. See Bruff, Bringing the Independent Agencies in from the Cold, 62 Vanderbilt L.Rev. En Banc 63, 68 (2009), online at http://vanderbilt lawreview. org/articles/2009/11/Bruff–62–Vand–L–Rev–En–Banc–63.pdf (noting that “Presidents do not test the limits of their power by removing commissioners ... ”); Lessig & Sunstein 110–112 (noting that courts have not had occasion to define what constitutes “cause” because Presidents rarely test removal provisions).

But even if we put all these other matters to the side, we should still conclude that the “for cause” restriction before us will not restrict presidential power significantly. For one thing, the restriction directly limits, not the President's power, but the power of an already independent agency. The Court seems to have forgotten that fact when it identifies its central constitutional problem: According to the Court, the President “is powerless to intervene” if he has determined that the Board members' “conduct merit[s] removal” because “[t]hat decision is vested instead in other tenured officers—the Commissioners—none of whom is subject to the President's direct control.” Ante, at 3153. But so long as the President is legitimately foreclosed from removing the Commissioners except for cause (as the majority assumes), ifying the Commission's power to remove Board members only for cause will not resolve the problem the Court has identified: The President will still be “powerless to intervene” by removing the Board members if the Commission reasonably decides not to do so.

In other words, the Court fails to show why two layers of “for cause” protection—Layer One insulating the Commissioners from the President, and Layer Two insulating the Board from the Commissioners—impose any more serious limitation upon the President's powers than one layer. Consider the four scenarios that might arise:

1. The President and the Commission both want to keep a Board member in office. Neither layer is relevant.

2. The President and the Commission both want to dismiss a Board member. Layer Two stops them both from doing

so without cause. The President's ability to remove the Commission (Layer One) is irrelevant, for he and the Commission are in agreement.

3. The President wants to dismiss a Board member, but the Commission wants to keep the member. Layer One allows the Commission to make that determination notwithstanding the President's contrary view. Layer Two is irrelevant because the Commission does not seek to remove the Board member.

4. The President wants to keep a Board member, but the Commission wants to dismiss the Board member. Here, Layer Two helps the President, for it hinders the Commission's ability to dismiss a Board member whom the President wants to keep in place.

Thus, the majority's decision to eliminate only Layer Two accomplishes virtually nothing. And that is because a removal restriction's effect upon presidential power depends not on the presence of a “double-layer” of for-cause removal, as the majority pretends, but rather on the real-world nature of the President's relationship with the Commission. If the President confronts a Commission that seeks to resist his policy preferences—a distinct possibility when, as here, a Commission's membership must reflect both political parties, 15 U.S.C. § 78d(a)—the restriction on the Commission's ability to remove a Board member is either irrelevant (as in scenario 3) or may actually help the President (as in scenario 4). And if the President faces a Commission that seeks to implement his policy preferences, Layer One is irrelevant, for the President and Commission see eye to eye.

In order to avoid this elementary logic, the Court creates two alternative scenarios. In the first, the Commission and the President both want to remove a Board member, but have varying judgments as to whether they have good “cause” to do so—i.e., the President and the Commission both conclude that a Board member should be removed, but disagree as to whether that conclusion (which they have both reached) is reasonable. Ante, at 3153 – 3154. In the second, the President wants to remove a Board member and the Commission disagrees; but, notwithstanding its freedom to make reasonable decisions independent of the President (afforded by Layer One), the Commission (while apparently telling the President that it agrees with him and would like to remove the Board member) uses Layer Two as an “excuse” to pursue its actual aims—an excuse which, given Layer One, it does not need. Ante, at 3154, n. 4.

Both of these circumstances seem unusual. I do not know if they have ever occurred. But I do not deny their logical possibility. I simply doubt their importance. And the fact that, with respect to the President's power, the double layer of for-cause removal sometimes might help, sometimes might hurt, leads me to conclude that its overall effect is at most indeterminate.

But once we leave the realm of hypothetical logic and view the removal provision at issue in the context of the entire Act, its lack of practical effect becomes readily apparent. That is because the statute provides the Commission with full authority and virtually comprehensive control over all of the Board's functions. Those who created the Accounting Board modeled it, in terms of structure and authority, upon the semiprivate regulatory bodies prevalent in the area of financial regulation, such as the New York Stock Exchange and other similar self-regulating organizations. See generally Brief for Former Chairmen of the SEC as Amici Curiae (hereinafter Brief for Former SEC Chairmen). And those organizations—which rely on private financing and on officers drawn from the private sector—exercise rulemaking and adjudicatory authority that is pervasively controlled by, and is indeed “entirely derivative” of, the SEC. See National Assn. of Securities Dealers, Inc. v. SEC, 431 F.3d 803, 806 (C.A.D.C.2005). Adhering to that model, the statute here gives the Accounting Board the power to adopt rules and standards “relating to the preparation of audit reports”; to adjudicate disciplinary proceedings involving accounting firms that fail to follow these rules; to impose sanctions; and to engage in other related activities, such as conducting inspections of accounting firms registered as the law requires and investigations to monitor compliance with the rules and related legal obligations. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 7211–7216. But, at the same time,

• No Accounting Board rule takes effect unless and until the Commission approves it, § 7217(b)(2);

• The Commission may “abrogat[e], delet[e] or ad[d] to” any rule or any portion of a rule promulgated by the Accounting Board whenever, in the Commission's view, doing so “further[s] the purposes” of the securities and accounting-oversight laws, § 7217(b)(5);

• The Commission may review any sanction the Board imposes and “enhance, modify, cancel, reduce, or require the remission of” that sanction if it find's the Board's action not “appropriate,” §§ 7215(e), 7217(c)(3);

The Commission may promulgate rules restricting or directing the Accounting Board's conduct of all inspections and investigations, §§ 7211(c)(3), 7214(h), 7215(b)(1)-(4);

The Commission may itself initiate any investigation or promulgate any rule within the Accounting Board's purview, § 7202, and may also remove any Accounting Board member who has unreasonably “failed to enforce compliance with” the relevant “rule[s], or any professional standard,” § 7217(d)(3)(C) (emphasis added);

The Commission may at any time “relieve the Board of any responsibility to enforce compliance with any provision” of the Act, the rules, or professional standards

if, in the Commission's view, doing so is in

“the public interest,” § 7217(d)(1) (emphasis added).

As these statutory provisions make clear, the Court is simply wrong when it says that “the Act nowhere gives the Commission effective power to start, stop, or alter” Board investigations. Ante, at 3158 – 3159. On the contrary, the Commission's control over the Board's investigatory and legal functions is virtually absolute. Moreover, the Commission has general supervisory powers over the Accounting Board itself: It controls the Board's budget, §§ 7219(b), (d)(1); it can assign to the Board any “duties or functions” that it “determines are necessary or appropriate,” § 7211(c)(5); it has full “oversight and enforcement authority over the Board,” § 7217(a), including the authority to inspect the Board's activities whenever it believes it “appropriate” to do so, § 7217(d)(2) (emphasis added). And it can censure the Board or its members, as well as remove the members from office, if the members, for example, fail to enforce the Act, violate any provisions of the Act, or abuse the authority granted to them under the Act, § 7217(d)(3). Cf. Shurtleff v. United States, 189 U.S. 311, 314–319, 23 S.Ct. 535, 47 L.Ed. 828 (1903) (holding that removal authority is not always “restricted to a removal for th[e] causes” set forth by statute); Bowsher, 478 U.S., at 729, 106 S.Ct. 3181 (rejecting the “arguable premis[e]” “that the enumeration of certain specified causes of removal excludes the possibility of removal for other causes”). Contra, ante, at 3158, n. 7. See generally Pildes, Putting Power Back into Separation of Powers Analysis: Why the SEC–PCAOB Structure is Constitutional, 62 Vand. L.Rev. En Banc 85 (2009), online at–62–Vand–L–Rev–En–Banc–85.pdf (explaining further the comprehensive nature of the Commission's powers).

What is left? The Commission's inability to remove a Board member whose perfectly reasonable actions cause the Commission to overrule him with great frequency? What is the practical likelihood of that occurring, or, if it does, of the President's serious concern about such a matter? Everyone concedes that the President's control over the Commission is constitutionally sufficient. See Humphrey's Executor, 295 U.S. 602, 55 S.Ct. 869; Wiener, 357 U.S. 349, 78 S.Ct. 1275; ante, at 3143 – 3144. And if the President's control over the Commission is sufficient, and the Commission's control over the Board is virtually absolute, then, as a practical matter, the President's control over the Board should prove sufficient as well.


At the same time, Congress and the President had good reason for enacting the challenged “for cause” provision. First and foremost, the Board adjudicates cases. See 15 U.S.C. § 7215. This Court has long recognized the appropriateness of using “for cause” provisions to protect the personal independence of those who even only sometimes engage in adjudicatory functions. Humphrey's Executor, supra, at 623–628, 55 S.Ct. 869; see also Wiener, supra, at 355–356, 78 S.Ct. 1275; Morrison, 487 U.S., at 690–691, and n. 30, 108 S.Ct. 2597; McAllister v. United States, 141 U.S. 174, 191–201, 11 S.Ct. 949, 35 L.Ed. 693 (1891) (Field, J., dissenting). Indeed, as early as 1789 James Madison stated that “there may be strong reasons why an” executive “officer” such as the Comptroller of the United States “should not hold his office at the pleasure of the Executive branch” if one of his “principal dut[ies]” “partakes strongly of the judicial character.” 1 Annals of Congress 611–612; cf. ante, at 3156, n. 6 (noting that the statute Congress ultimately enacted limited Presidential control over the Comptroller in a different fashion); see supra, at 3148. The Court, however, all but ignores the Board's adjudicatory functions when conducting its analysis. See, e.g., ante, at 3155. And when it finally does address that central function (in a footnote), it simply asserts that the Board does not “perform adjudicative ... functions,” ante, at 3160, n. 10 (emphasis added), an assertion that is inconsistent with the terms of the statute. See § 7215(c)(1) (governing “proceeding[s] by the Board to determine whether a registered public accounting firm, or an associated person thereof, should be disciplined”).

Moreover, in addition to their adjudicative functions, the Accounting Board members supervise, and are themselves, technical professional experts. See § 7211(e)(1) (requiring that Board members “have a demonstrated” technical “understanding of the responsibilities” and “obligations of accountants with respect to the preparation and issuance of audit reports”). This Court has recognized that the “difficulties involved in the preparation of” sound auditing reports require the application of “scientific accounting principles.” United States v. Anderson, 269 U.S. 422, 440, 46 S.Ct. 131, 70 L.Ed. 347 (1926). And this Court has recognized the constitutional legitimacy of a justification that rests agency independence upon the need for technical expertise. See Humphrey's Executor, supra, at 624–626, 55 S.Ct. 869; see also Breger & Edles, Established by Practice: The Theory and Operation of Independent Federal Agencies, 52 Admin. L.Rev. 1111, 1131–1133 (2000) (explaining how the need for administrators with “technical competence,” “apolitical expertise,” and skill in “scientific management” led to original creation of independent agencies) (hereinafter Breger & Edles); J. Landis, The Administrative Process 23 (1938) (similar); Woodrow Wilson, Democracy and Efficiency, 87 Atlantic Monthly 289, 299 (1901) (describing need for insulation of experts from political influences).

Here, the justification for insulating the “technical experts” on the Board from fear of losing their jobs due to political influence is particularly strong. Congress deliberately sought to provide that kind of protection. See, e.g., 148 Cong. Rec. 12036, 12115, 13352–13355. It did so for good reason. See ante, at 3147 (noting that the Accounting Board was created in response to “a series of celebrated accounting debacles”); H.R.Rep. No. 107–414, pp. 18–19 (2002) (same); Brief for Former SEC Chairmen 8–9. And historically, this regulatory subject matter—financial regulation—has been thought to exhibit a particular need for independence. See e.g., 51 Cong. Rec. 8857 (1914) (remarks of Sen. Morgan upon creation of the Federal Trade Commission) (“[I]t is unsafe for an ... administrative officer representing a great political party ... to hold the power of life and death over the great business interests of this country .... That is ... why I believe in ... taking these business matters out of politics”). And Congress, by, for example, providing the Board with a revenue stream independent of the congressional appropriations process, § 7219, helped insulate the Board from congressional, as well as other, political influences. See, e.g., 148 Cong. Rec. 12036 (statement of Sen. Stabenow).

In sum, Congress and the President could reasonably have thought it prudent to insulate the adjudicative Board members from fear of purely politically based removal. Cf. Civil Service Comm'n v. Letter Carriers, 413 U.S. 548, 565, 93 S.Ct. 2880, 37 L.Ed.2d 796 (1973) (“[I]t is not only important that the Government and its employees in fact avoid practicing political justice, but it is also critical that they appear to the public to be avoiding it, if confidence in the system of representative Government is not to be eroded to a disastrous extent”). And in a world in which we count on the Federal Government to regulate matters as complex as, say, nuclear-power production, the Court's assertion that we should simply learn to get by “without being” regulated “by experts” is, at best, unrealistic—at worst, dangerously so. Ante, at 3155 – 3156.


Where a “for cause” provision is so unlikely to restrict presidential power and so likely to further a legitimate institutional need, precedent strongly supports its constitutionality. First, in considering a related issue in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425, 97 S.Ct. 2777, 53 L.Ed.2d 867 (1977), the Court made clear that when “determining whether the Act disrupts the proper balance between the coordinate branches, the proper inquiry focuses on the extent to which it prevents the Executive Branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions.” Id., at 443, 97 S.Ct. 2777. The Court said the same in Morrison, where it upheld a restriction on the President's removal power. 487 U.S., at 691, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (“[T]he real question is whether the removal restrictions are of such a nature that they impede the President's ability to perform his constitutional duty, and the functions of the officials in question must be analyzed in that light”). Here, the removal restriction may somewhat diminish the Commission's ability to control the Board, but it will have little, if any, negative effect in respect to the President's ability to control the Board, let alone to coordinate the Executive Branch. See Part II–A, supra. Indeed, given Morrison, where the Court upheld a restriction that significantly interfered with the President's important historic power to control criminal prosecutions, a “ ‘purely executive’ ” function, 487 U.S., at 687–689, 108 S.Ct. 2597, the constitutionality of the present restriction would seem to follow a fortiori.

Second, as previously pointed out, this Court has repeatedly upheld “for cause” provisions where they restrict the President's power to remove an officer with adjudicatory responsibilities. Compare Humphrey's Executor, 295 U.S., at 623–628, 55 S.Ct. 869; Wiener, 357 U.S., at 355, 78 S.Ct. 1275; Schor, 478 U.S., at 854, 106 S.Ct. 3245; Morrison, supra, at 691, n. 30, 108 S.Ct. 2597, with ante, at 3155 – 3156 (ignoring these precedents). And we have also upheld such restrictions when they relate to officials with technical responsibilities that warrant a degree of special independence. E.g., Humphrey's Executor, supra, at 624, 55 S.Ct. 869. The Accounting Board's functions involve both kinds of responsibility. And, accordingly, the Accounting Board's adjudicatory responsibilities, the technical nature of its job, the need to attract experts to that job, and the importance of demonstrating the nonpolitical nature of the job to the public strongly justify a statute that ensures that Board members need not fear for their jobs when competently carrying out their tasks, while still maintaining the Commission as the ultimate authority over Board policies and actions. See Part II–B, supra. Third, consider how several cases fit together in a way that logically compels a holding of constitutionality here. In Perkins, 116 U.S., at 483, 484, 6 S.Ct. 449—which was reaffirmed in Myers, 272 U.S., at 127, 47 S.Ct. 21 and in Morrison, supra, at 689, n. 27, 108 S.Ct. 2597—the Court upheld a removal restriction limiting the authority of the Secretary of the Navy to remove a “cadet-engineer,” whom the Court explicitly defined as an “inferior officer.” The Court said,

“We have no doubt that when Congress, by law, vests the appointment of inferior officers in the heads of Departments it may limit and restrict the power of removal as it deems best for the public interest. The constitutional authority in Congress to thus vest the appointment implies authority to limit, restrict, and regulate the removal by such laws as Congress may enact in relation to the officers so appointed.” Perkins, supra, at 485, 6 S.Ct. 449 (emphasis added; internal quotation marks omitted).

See also Morrison, supra, at 723–724, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (SCALIA, J., dissenting) (agreeing that the power to remove an “inferior officer” who is appointed by a department head can be restricted). Cf. ante, at 3162 – 3164 (holding that SEC Commissioners are “Heads of Departments”).

In Humphrey's Executor, the Court held that Congress may constitutionally limit the President's authority to remove certain principal officers, including heads of departments. 295 U.S., at 627–629, 55 S.Ct. 869. And the Court has consistently recognized the validity of that holding. See Wiener, supra ; United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 706, 94 S.Ct. 3090, 41 L.Ed.2d 1039 (1974); Buckley, 424 U.S., at 133–136, 96 S.Ct. 612; Chadha, 462 U.S., at 953, n. 16, 103 S.Ct. 2764; Bowsher, 478 U.S., at 725–726, 106 S.Ct. 3181; Morrison, supra, at 686–693, 108 S.Ct. 2597; Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 410–411, 109 S.Ct. 647, 102 L.Ed.2d 714 (1989). And in Freytag, 501 U.S., at 878, 111 S.Ct. 2631, Justice SCALIA stated in a concurring opinion written for four Justices, including Justice KENNEDY, that “adjusting the remainder of the Constitution to compensate for Humphrey's Executor is a fruitless endeavor.” In these Justices' view, the Court should not create a separate constitutional jurisprudence for the “independent agencies.” That being so, the law should treat their heads as it treats other Executive Branch heads of departments. Consequently, as the Court held in Perkins, Congress may constitutionally “limit and restrict” the Commission's power to remove those whom they appoint (e.g., the Accounting Board members).

Fourth, the Court has said that “[o]ur separation-of-powers jurisprudence generally focuses on the danger of one branch's aggrandizing its power at the expense of another branch.” Freytag, supra, at 878, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (emphasis added); accord, Buckley, supra, at 124–125, 96 S.Ct. 612; Schor, supra, at 856, 106 S.Ct. 3245; Morrison, supra, at 686, 108 S.Ct. 2597; cf. Bowsher, supra. Indeed, it has added that “the essence of the decision in Myers,” which is the only one of our cases to have struck down a “for cause” removal restriction, “was the judgment that the Constitution prevents Congress from ‘draw[ing] to itself ... the power to remove.’ ” Morrison, supra, at 686, 108 S.Ct. 2597 (quoting Myers, supra, at 161, 47 S.Ct. 21; emphasis added). Congress here has “drawn” no power to itself to remove the Board members. It has instead sought to limit its own power, by, for example, providing the Accounting Board with a revenue stream independent of the congressional appropriations process. See supra, at 19; see also Brief for Former SEC Chairmen 16. And this case thereby falls outside the ambit of the Court's most serious constitutional concern.

In sum, the Court's prior cases impose functional criteria that are readily met here. Once one goes beyond the Court's elementary arithmetical logic (i.e., “one plus one is greater than one”) our precedent virtually dictates a holding that the challenged “for cause” provision is constitutional.


We should ask one further question. Even if the “for cause” provision before us does not itself significantly interfere with the President's authority or aggrandize Congress' power, is it nonetheless necessary to adopt a bright-line rule forbidding the provision lest, through a series of such provisions, each itself upheld as reasonable, Congress might undercut the President's central constitutional role? Cf. Strauss 625–626. The answer to this question is that no such need has been shown. Moreover, insofar as the Court seeks to create such a rule, it fails. And in failing it threatens a harm that is far more serious than any imaginable harm this “for cause” provision might bring about.

The Court fails to create a bright-line rule because of considerable uncertainty about the scope of its holding—an uncertainty that the Court's opinion both reflects and generates. The Court suggests, for example, that its rule may not apply where an inferior officer “perform[s] adjudicative ... functions.” Cf. ante, at 3160, n. 10. But the Accounting Board performs adjudicative functions. See supra, at 3155 – 3156. What, then, are we to make of the Court's potential exception? And would such an exception apply to an administrative law judge who also has important administrative duties beyond pure adjudication? See, e.g., 8 CFR § 1003.9, 34 CFR § 81.4 (2009). The Court elsewhere suggests that its rule may be limited to removal statutes that provide for “judicial review of a[n] effort to remove” an official for cause. Ante, at 3158; ante, at 3159. But we have previously stated that all officers protected by a for-cause removal provision and later subject to termination are entitled to “notice and [a] hearing” in the “courts,” as without such review “the appointing power” otherwise “could remove at pleasure or for such cause as [only] it deemed sufficient.” Reagan v. United States, 182 U.S. 419, 425, 21 S.Ct. 842, 45 L.Ed. 1162 (1901); Shurtleff, 189 U.S., at 314, 23 S.Ct. 535; cf. Humphrey's Executor, supra (entertaining civil suit challenging removal). But cf. Bowsher, supra, at 729, 106 S.Ct. 3181. What weight, then, should be given to this hint of an exception?

The Court further seems to suggest that its holding may not apply to inferior officers who have a different relationship to their appointing agents than the relationship between the Commission and the Board. See ante, at 3158, 3159 – 3160. But the only characteristic of the “relationship” between the Commission and the Board that the Court apparently deems relevant is that the relationship includes two layers of for-cause removal. See, e.g., ante, at 3158 (“Broad power over Board functions is not equivalent to the power to remove Board members”). Why then would any different relationship that also includes two layers of for-cause removal survive where this one has not? Cf. Part II–A, supra (describing the Commission's near absolute control over the Board). In a word, what differences are relevant? If the Court means to state that its holding in fact applies only where Congress has “enacted an unusually high standard ” of for-cause removal—and does not otherwise render two layers of “ ‘ordinary’ ” for-cause removal unconstitutional—I should welcome the statement. Ante, at 3158 (emphasis added); see also ante, at 3159 – 3160, 3154, 3158, (underscoring this statute's “sharply circumscribed definition of what constitutes ‘good cause’ ” and its “rigorous,” “significant and unusual [removal] protections”). But much of the majority's opinion appears to avoid so narrow a holding in favor of a broad, basically mechanical rule—a rule that, as I have said, is divorced from the context of the case at hand. Compare Parts III–A, III–B, III–C, ante, with Parts II–A, II–B, II–C, supra. And such a mechanical rule cannot be cabined simply by saying that, perhaps, the rule does not apply to instances that, at least at first blush, seem highly similar. A judicial holding by its very nature is not “a restricted railroad ticket, good for” one “day and train only.” Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649, 669, 64 S.Ct. 757, 88 L.Ed. 987 (1944) (Roberts, J., dissenting).

The Court begins to reveal the practical problems inherent in its double for-cause rule when it suggests that its rule may not apply to “the civil service.” Ante, at 3160. The “civil service” is defined by statute to include “all appointive positions in ... the Government of the United States,” excluding the military, but including all civil “officer[s]” up to and including those who are subject to Senate confirmation. 5 U.S.C. §§ 2101, 2102(a)(1)(B), 2104. The civil service thus includes many officers indistinguishable from the members of both the Commission and the Accounting Board. Indeed, as this Court recognized in Myers, the “competitive service”—the class within the broader civil service that enjoys the most robust career protection—“includes a vast majority of all the civil officers” in the United States. 272 U.S., at 173, 47 S.Ct. 21 (emphasis added); 5 U.S.C. § 2102(c).

But even if I assume that the majority categorically excludes the competitive service from the scope of its new rule, cf. ante, at 3160 (leaving this question open), the exclusion would be insufficient. This is because the Court's “double for-cause” rule applies to appointees who are “inferior officer[s].” Ante, at 3147. And who are they? Courts and scholars have struggled for more than a century to define the constitutional term “inferior officers,” without much success. See 2 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution § 1536, pp. 397–398 (3d ed.1858) (“[T]here does not seem to have been any exact line drawn, who are and who are not to be deemed inferior officers, in the sense of the constitution”); Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651, 661, 117 S.Ct. 1573, 137 L.Ed.2d 917 (1997) (“Our cases have not set forth an exclusive criterion for [defining] inferior officers”); Memorandum from Steven G. Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, to the General Counsels of the Executive Branch: Officers of the United States Within the Meaning of the Appointments Clause, p. 3 (Apr. 16, 2007) (hereinafter OLC Memo), online at http://www.justice. gov/olc/2007/appointmentsclausev10.pdf (“[T]he Supreme Court has not articulated the precise scope and application of the [Inferior Officer] Clause's requirements”); Konecke, The Appointments Clause and Military Judges: Inferior Appointment to a Principal Office, 5 Seton Hall Const. L. J. 489, 492 (1995) (same); Burkoff, Appointment and Removal Under the Federal Constitution: The Impact of Buckley v. Valeo, 22 Wayne L.Rev. 1335, 1347, 1364 (1976) (describing our early precedent as “circular” and our later law as “not particularly useful”). The Court does not clarify the concept. But without defining who is an inferior officer, to whom the majority's new rule applies, we cannot know the scope or the coherence of the legal rule that the Court creates. I understand the virtues of a common-law case-by-case approach. But here that kind of approach (when applied without more specificity than I can find in the Court's opinion) threatens serious harm.

The problem is not simply that the term “inferior officer” is indefinite but also that efforts to define it inevitably conclude that the term's sweep is unusually broad. Consider the Court's definitions: Inferior officers are, inter alia, (1) those charged with “the administration and enforcement of the public law,” Buckley, 424 U.S., at 139, 96 S.Ct. 612; ante, at 3147; (2) those granted “significant authority,” 424 U.S., at 126, 96 S.Ct. 612; ante, at 3159 – 3160; (3) those with “responsibility for conducting civil litigation in the courts of the United States,” 424 U.S., at 140, 96 S.Ct. 612; and (4) those “who can be said to hold an office,” United States v. Germaine, 99 U.S. 508, 510, 25 L.Ed. 482 (1879), that has been created either by “regulations” or by “statute,” United States v. Mouat, 124 U.S. 303, 307–308, 23 Ct.Cl. 490, 8 S.Ct. 505, 31 L.Ed. 463 (1888).

Consider the definitional conclusion that the Department of Justice more recently reached: An “inferior officer” is anyone who holds a “continuing” position and who is “invested by legal authority with a portion of the sovereign powers of the federal Government,” including, inter alia, the power to “arrest criminals,” “seize persons or property,” “issue regulations,” “issue ... authoritative legal opinions,” “conduc[t] civil litigation,” “collec [t] revenue,” represent “the United States to foreign nations,” “command” military force, or enter into “contracts” on behalf “of the nation.” OLC Memo 1, 4, 12–13, 15–16 (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis added).

And consider the fact that those whom this Court has held to be “officers” include: (1) a district court clerk, Hennen, 13 Pet., at 258; (2) “thousands of clerks in the Departments of the Treasury, Interior and the othe [r]” departments, Germaine, supra, at 511, who are responsible for “the records, books, and papers appertaining to the office,” Hennen, supra, at 259; (3) a clerk to “the assistant treasurer” stationed “at Boston,” United States v. Hartwell, 73 U.S. 385, 6 Wall. 385, 392, 18 L.Ed. 830 (1868); (4 & 5) an “assistant-surgeon” and a “cadet-engineer” appointed by the Secretary of the Navy, United States v. Moore, 95 U.S. 760, 762, 24 L.Ed. 588 (1878); Perkins, 116 U.S., at 484, 6 S.Ct. 449; (6) election monitors, Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 397–399, 25 L.Ed. 717 (1880); (7) United States attorneys, Myers, supra, at 159, 47 S.Ct. 21; (8) federal marshals, Siebold, supra, at 397; Morrison, 487 U.S., at 676, 108 S.Ct. 2597; (9) military judges, Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S., 163, 170, 114 S.Ct. 752, 127 L.Ed.2d 1 (1994); (10) judges in Article I courts, Freytag, 501 U.S., at 878, 111 S.Ct. 2631; and (11) the general counsel of the Department of Transportation, Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651, 117 S.Ct. 1573, 137 L.Ed.2d 917 (1997). Individual Members of the Court would add to the list the Federal Communication Commission's managing director, the Federal Trade Commission's “secretary,” the general counsel of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and more generally, bureau chiefs, general counsels, and administrative law judges, see Freytag, supra, at 918–920, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment), as well as “ordinary commissioned military officers,” Weiss, supra, at 182, 114 S.Ct. 752 (Souter, J., concurring).

Reading the criteria above as stringently as possible, I still see no way to avoid sweeping hundreds, perhaps thousands of high level government officials within the scope of the Court's holding, putting their job security and their administrative actions and decisions constitutionally at risk. To make even a conservative estimate, one would have to begin by listing federal departments, offices, bureaus and other agencies whose heads are by statute removable only “for cause.” I have found 48 such agencies, which I have listed in Appendix A, infra. Then it would be necessary to identify the senior officials in those agencies (just below the top) who themselves are removable only “for cause.” I have identified 573 such high-ranking officials, whom I have listed in Appendix B, infra. They include most of the leadership of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (including that agency's executive director as well as the directors of its Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation and Office of Enforcement), virtually all of the leadership of the Social Security Administration, the executive directors of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the general counsels of the Chemical Safety Board, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and the National Mediation Board.

This list is a conservative estimate because it consists only of career appointees in the Senior Executive Service (SES), see 5 U.S.C. §§ 2101a, 3132(a)(2), a group of high-ranking officials distinct from the “competitive service,” see § 2102(a)(1)(C), who “serve in the key positions just below the top Presidential appointees,” Office of Personnel Management, About the Senior Executive Service, online at asp; and who are, without exception, subject to “removal” only for cause. §§ 7542–7543; see also § 2302(a)(2) (substantially limiting conditions under which “a career appointee position in the Senior Executive Service” may be “transfer[red], or reassign[ed]”). SES officials include, for example, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, the Director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, and the Director of the Office of International Monetary Policy in the Treasury Department. See Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions (2008), pp. 99, 103, 129 (hereinafter Plum Book). And by virtually any definition, essentially all SES officials qualify as “inferior officers,” for their duties, as defined by statute, require them to “direc[t] the work of an organizational unit,” carry out high-level managerial functions, or “otherwise exercis[e] important policy-making, policy-determining, or other executive functions.” § 3132(a)(2) (emphasis added). Cf. ante, at 3147 (describing an “inferior officer” as someone who “determines the policy and enforces the laws of the United States”); ante, at 3160 (acknowledging that career SES appointees in independent agencies may be rendered unconstitutional in future cases). Is the SES exempt from today's rule or is it not? The Court, after listing reasons why the SES may be different, simply says that it will not “addres[s]” the matter. Ante, at 3160 – 3161. Perhaps it does not do so because it cannot do so without revealing the difficulty of distinguishing the SES from the Accounting Board and thereby also revealing the inherent instability of the legal rule it creates.

The potential list of those whom today's decision affects is yet larger. As Justice SCALIA has observed, administrative law judges (ALJs) “are all executive officers.” Freytag, 501 U.S., at 878, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (opinion concurring in part and concurring in judgment) (emphasis deleted); see also, e.g., id., at 881, 111 S.Ct. 2631 (majority opinion) (“[A] [tax-court] special trial judge is an ‘inferior Officer’ ”); Edmond, supra, at 654, 117 S.Ct. 1573 (“[M]ilitary trial and appellate judges are [inferior] officers”). But cf. ante, at 3160, n. 10. And ALJs are each removable “only for good cause established and determined by the Merit Systems Protection Board,” 5 U.S.C. §§ 7521(a)-(b). But the members of the Merit Systems Protection Board are themselves protected from removal by the President absent good cause. § 1202(d).

My research reflects that the Federal Government relies on 1,584 ALJs to adjudicate administrative matters in over 25 agencies. See Appendix C, infra; see also Memorandum of Juanita Love, Office of Personnel Management, to Supreme Court Library (May 28, 2010) (available in Clerk of Court's case file). These ALJs adjudicate Social Security benefits, employment disputes, and other matters highly important to individuals. Does every losing party before an ALJ now have grounds to appeal on the basis that the decision entered against him is unconstitutional? Cf. ante, at 3160, n. 10 (“[O]ur holding also does not address” this question).

And what about the military? Commissioned military officers “are ‘inferior officers.’ ” Weiss, 510 U.S., at 182, 114 S.Ct. 752 (Souter, J., concurring); id., at 169–170, 114 S.Ct. 752 (majority opinion). There are over 210,000 active-duty commissioned officers currently serving in the armed forces. See Dept. of Defense, Active Duty Military Personnel by Rank (Apr. 30, 2010), online at rg1004.pdf. Numerous statutory provisions provide that such officers may not be removed from office except for cause (at least in peacetime). See, e.g., 10 U.S.C. §§ 629–632, 804, 1161, 1181–1185. And such officers can generally be so removed only by other commissioned officers, see §§ 612, 825, 1187, who themselves enjoy the same career protections.

The majority might simply say that the military is different. But it will have to explain how it is different. It is difficult to see why the Constitution would provide a President who is the military's “commander-in-chief,” Art. II, § 2, cl. 1, with less authority to remove “inferior” military “officers” than to remove comparable civil officials. See Barron & Lederman, The Commander in Chief at the Lowest Ebb—A Constitutional History, 121 Harv. L.Rev. 941, 1102–1106 (2008) (describing President's “superintendence prerogative” over the military). Cf. ante, at 3160 – 3161 (not “expressing any view whatever” as to whether military officers' authority is now unconstitutional).

The majority sees “no reason ... to address whether” any of “these positions,” “or any others,” might be deemed unconstitutional under its new rule, preferring instead to leave these matters for a future case. Ante, at 3160 – 3161. But what is to happen in the meantime? Is the work of all these various officials to be put on hold while the courts of appeals determine whether today's ruling applies to them? Will Congress have to act to remove the “for cause” provisions? Cf. Buckley, 424 U.S., at 142–143, 96 S.Ct. 612. Can the President then restore them via executive order? And, still, what about the military? A clearer line would help avoid these practical difficulties.

The majority asserts that its opinion will not affect the Government's ability to function while these many questions are litigated in the lower courts because the Court's holding concerns only “the conditions under which th [e]se officers might someday be removed.” Ante, at 3161. But this case was not brought by federal officials challenging their potential removal. It was brought by private individuals who were subject to regulation “ ‘here-and-now ’ ” and who “object to the” very “existence” of the regulators themselves. Ante, at 3164, 3150 (emphasis added). And those private individuals have prevailed. Thus, any person similarly regulated by a federal official who is potentially subject to the Court's amorphous new rule will be able to bring an “implied private right of action directly under the Constitution” “seeking ... a declaratory judgment that” the official's actions are “unconstitutional and an injunction preventing the” official “from exercising [his] powers.” Ante, at 3151, n. 2, 3088 – 3089; cf., e.g., Legal Services

Corporation v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 533, 546, 121 S.Ct. 1043, 149 L.Ed.2d 63 (2001) (affirming grant of preliminary injunction to cure, inter alia, a separation-of-powers violation); Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., 343 U.S. 579, 72 S.Ct. 863 (same). Such a plaintiff need not even first exhaust his administrative remedies. Ante, at 3149 – 3151.

Nor is it clear that courts will always be able to cure such a constitutional defect merely by severing an offending removal provision. For a court's “ability to devise [such] a judicial remedy ... often depends on how clearly” the “background constitutional rules at issue” have been “ articulated”; severance will be unavailable “in a murky constitutional context,” which is precisely the context that the Court's new rule creates. Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New Eng., 546 U.S. 320, 329, 330, 126 S.Ct. 961, 163 L.Ed.2d 812 (2006). Moreover, “the touchstone” of the severability analysis “is legislative intent,” id., at 330, 126 S.Ct. 961, and Congress has repeatedly expressed its judgment “over the last century that it is in the best interest of the country, indeed essential, that federal service should depend upon meritorious performance rather than political service,” Civil Service Comm'n, 413 U.S., at 557, 93 S.Ct. 2880; see also Bush v. Lucas, 462 U.S. 367, 380–388, 103 S.Ct. 2404, 76 L.Ed.2d 648 (1983) (describing the history of “Congressional attention to the problem of politically-motivated removals”). And so it may well be that courts called upon to resolve the many questions the majority's opinion raises will not only apply the Court's new rule to its logical conclusion, but will also determine that the only available remedy to certain double for-cause problems is to invalidate entire agencies.

Thus, notwithstanding the majority's assertions to the contrary, the potential consequences of today's holding are worrying. The upshot, I believe, is a legal dilemma. To interpret the Court's decision as applicable only in a few circumstances will make the rule less harmful but arbitrary. To interpret the rule more broadly will make the rule more rational, but destructive.


One last question: How can the Court simply assume without deciding that the SEC Commissioners themselves are removable only “for cause”? See ante, at 3148 – 3149 (“[W]e decide the case with th[e] understanding” “that the Commissioners cannot themselves be removed by the President except” for cause (emphasis added)). Unless the Commissioners themselves are in fact protected by a “for cause” requirement, the Accounting Board statute, on the Court's own reasoning, is not constitutionally defective. I am not aware of any other instance in which the Court has similarly (on its own or through stipulation) created a constitutional defect in a statute and then relied on that defect to strike a statute down as unconstitutional. Cf. Alabama v. North Carolina, 560 U.S. 330, ––––, 130 S.Ct. 2295, ––––, 176 L.Ed.2d 1070 (slip Op., at 20) (2010) (opinion for the Court by SCALIA, J.) (“We do not—we cannot—add provisions to a federal statute ... especially [if] ... separation-of-powers concerns ... would [thereby] arise”); The Anaconda v. American Sugar Refining Co., 322 U.S. 42, 46, 64 S.Ct. 863, 88 L.Ed. 1117 (1944) (describing parties' inability to “stipulate away” what “the legislation declares”).

It is certainly not obvious that the SEC Commissioners enjoy “for cause” protection. Unlike the statutes establishing the 48 federal agencies listed in Appendix A, infra, the statute that established the Commission says nothing about removal. It is silent on the question. As far as its text is concerned, the President's authority to remove the Commissioners is no different from his authority to remove the Secretary of State or the Attorney General. See Shurtleff, 189 U.S., at 315, 23 S.Ct. 535 (“To take away th[e] power of removal ... would require very clear and explicit language. It should not be held to be taken away by mere inference or implication”); see also Memorandum from David J. Barron, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, to the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President: Removability of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, p. 2 (Oct. 23, 2009), online at pdf (“[Where] Congress did not explicitly provide tenure protection ... the President, consistent with ... settled principles, may remove ... without cause”); The Constitutional Separation of Powers Between the President and Congress, 20 Op. Legal Counsel 124, 170 (1996) (same).

Nor is the absence of a “for cause” provision in the statute that created the Commission likely to have been inadvertent. Congress created the Commission during the 9–year period after this Court decided Myers, and thereby cast serious doubt on the constitutionality of all “for cause” removal provisions, but before it decided Humphrey's Executor, which removed any doubt in respect to the constitutionality of making commissioners of independent agencies removable only for cause. In other words, Congress created the SEC at a time when, under this Court's precedents, it would have been unconstitutionalto make the Commissioners removable only for cause. And, during that 9–year period, Congress created at least three major federal agencies without making any of their officers removable for cause. See 48 Stat. 885, 15 U.S.C. § 78d (Securities and Exchange Commission), 48 Stat. 1066, 47 U.S.C. § 154 (Federal Communications Commission); 46 Stat. 797 (Federal Power Commission) (reformed post-Humphrey's Executor as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with “for cause” protection, 91 Stat. 582, 42 U.S.C. § 7171). By way of contrast, only one month after Humphrey's Executor was decided, Congress returned to its pre-Myers practice of including such provisions in statutes creating independent commissions. See § 3, 49 Stat. 451, 29 U.S.C. § 153 (establishing National Labor Relations Board with an explicit removal limitation).

The fact that Congress did not make the SEC Commissioners removable “for cause” does not mean it intended to create a dependent, rather than an independent agency. Agency independence is a function of several different factors, of which “for cause” protection is only one. Those factors include, inter alia, an agency's separate (rather than presidentially dependent) budgeting authority, its separate litigating authority, its composition as a multimember bipartisan board, the use of the word “independent” in its authorizing statute, and, above all, a political environment, reflecting tradition and function, that would impose a heavy political cost upon any President who tried to remove a commissioner of the agency without cause. See generally Breger & Edles 1135–1155.

The absence of a “for cause” provision is thus not fatal to agency independence. Indeed, a “Congressional Research Service official suggests that there are at least 13 ‘independent’ agencies without a removal provision in their statutes.” Id., at 1143, n. 161 (emphasis added) (citing congressional testimony). But it does draw the majority's rule into further confusion. For not only are we left without a definition of an “ inferior officer,” but we are also left to guess which department heads will be deemed by the majority to be subject to for-cause removal notwithstanding statutes containing no such provision. If any agency deemed “independent” will be similarly treated, the scope of the majority's holding is even broader still. See Appendix D, infra (listing agencies potentially affected).

The Court then, by assumption, reads into the statute books a “for cause removal” phrase that does not appear in the relevant statute and which Congress probably did not intend to write. And it does so in order to strike down, not to uphold, another statute. This is not a statutory construction that seeks to avoid a constitutional question, but its opposite. See Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 347, 56 S.Ct. 466, 80 L.Ed. 688 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring) (“It is not the habit of the Court to decide questions of a constitutional nature unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case” (internal quotation marks omitted)); NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490, 500, 99 S.Ct. 1313, 59 L.Ed.2d 533 (1979) (“[A]n Act of Congress ought not to be construed to violate the Constitution if any other possible construction remains available”).

I do not need to decide whether the Commissioners are in fact removable only “for cause” because I would uphold the Accounting Board's removal provision as constitutional regardless. But were that not so, a determination that the silent SEC statute means no more than it says would properly avoid the determination of unconstitutionality that the Court now makes.

* * *

In my view the Court's decision is wrong—very wrong. As Parts II–A, II–B, and II–C of this opinion make clear, if the Court were to look to the proper functional and contextual considerations, it would find the Accounting Board provision constitutional. As Part II–D shows, insofar as the Court instead tries to create a bright-line rule, it fails to do so. Its rule of decision is both imprecise and overly broad. In light of the present imprecision, it must either narrow its rule arbitrarily, leaving it to apply virtually alone to the Accounting Board, or it will have to leave in place a broader rule of decision applicable to many other “inferior officers” as well. In doing the latter, it will undermine the President's authority. And it will create an obstacle, indeed pose a serious threat, to the proper functioning of that workable Government that the Constitution seeks to create—in provisions this Court is sworn to uphold.

With respect I dissent.



There are 24 stand-alone federal agencies (i.e., “departments”) whose heads are, by statute, removable by the President only “for cause.” Moreover, there are at least 24 additional offices, boards, or bureaus situated within departments that are similarly subject, by statute, to for-cause removal provisions. The chart below first lists the 24 departments and then lists the 24 additional offices, boards, and bureaus. I have highlighted those instances in which a “for-cause” office is situated within a “for-cause” department—i.e., instances of “double for-cause” removal that are essentially indistinguishable from this case (with the notable exception that the Accounting Board may not be statutorily subject to two layers of for-cause removal, cf. Part III, supra ). This list does not include instances of “double for-cause” removal that arise in Article I courts, although such instances might also be affected by the majority's holding, cf. ante, at ––––, n. 10. Compare 48 U.S.C. §§ 1424(a), 1614(a), with 28 U.S.C. §§ 631(a), (i), and 18 U.S.C. §§ 23, 3602(a). Editor's Note: The preceding image contains the reference for footnote.Editor's Note: The preceding image contains the reference for footnote

The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337, 26 S.Ct. 282, 50 L.Ed. 499.

See Lebron, supra.


The table that follows lists the 573 career appointees in the Senior Executive Service (SES) who constitute the upper level management of the independent agencies listed in Appendix A, supra. Each of these officials is, under any definition—including the Court's—an inferior officer, and is, by statute, subject to two layers of for-cause removal. See supra, at 25–30.

The data are organized into three columns: The first column lists the “office” to which the corresponding official is assigned within the respective agency and, where available, the provision of law establishing that office. Cf. supra, at 27 (citing Mouat, 124 U.S., at 307–308, 8 S.Ct. 505; Germaine, 99 U.S., at 510). The second and third columns respectively list the career appointees in each agency who occupy “general” and “reserved” SES positions. A “general” position is one that could be filled by either a career appointee or by a noncareer appointee were the current (career) occupant to be replaced. See 5 U.S.C. § 3132(b)(1). Because 90% of all SES positions must be filled by career appointees, § 3134(b), “most General positions are filled by career appointees,” Plum Book 200. A “reserved” position, by contrast, must always be filled by a career appointee. § 3132(b)(1). The data for the “general position” column come from the 2008 Plum Book, a quadrennial manual prepared by the congressional committees responsible for government oversight. See supra, at 29. Positions listed as vacant in that source are not included. The data for the “reserved position” column come from a list periodically published by the Office of Personnel Management and last published in 2006. See 72 Fed.Reg. 16154–16251 (2007); § 3132(b)(4). Given the Federal Government's size and the temporal lag between the underlying sources, the list that follows is intended to be illustrative, not exact.

Editor's Note: The preceding image contains the reference for footnote*. C

According to data provided by the Office of Personnel Management, reprinted below, there are 1,584 administrative law judges (ALJs) in the Federal Government. Each of these ALJs is an inferior officer and each is subject, by statute, to two layers of for-cause removal. See supra, at ––––. The table below lists the 28 federal agencies that rely on ALJs to adjudicate individual administrative cases. The source is available in the Clerk of Court's case file. See ibid. D

The table below lists 27 departments and other agencies the heads of which are not subject to any statutory for-cause removal provision, but that do bear certain other indicia of independence.

The table identifies six criteria that may suggest independence: (1) whether the agency consists of a multimember commission; (2) whether its members are required, by statute, to be bipartisan (or nonpartisan); (3) whether eligibility to serve as the agency's head depends on statutorily defined qualifications; (4) whether the agency has independence in submitting budgetary and other proposals to Congress (thereby bypassing the Office of Management and Budget); (5) whether the agency has authority to appear in court independent of the Department of Justice, cf. 28 U.S.C. §§ 516–519; and (6) whether the agency is explicitly classified as “independent” by statute. See generally Breger & Edles 1135–1155; supra, at 35–36. Unless otherwise noted, all information refers to the relevant agency's organic statute, which is cited in the first column. The list of agencies is nonexhaustive.Editor's Note: The preceding image contains the reference for footnote*.Editor's Note: The preceding image contains the reference for footnote.Editor's Note: The preceding image contains the reference for footnote.

* See Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, 513 U.S. 374, 115 S.Ct. 961, 130 L.Ed.2d 902 (1995).

* The officers in this agency are part of the “excepted service,” but enjoy tenure protection similar to that enjoyed by career SES appointees. See 5 U.S.C. § 2302(a)(2)(B); Plum Book, p. v (distinguishing “excepted service” from “Schedule C”); id., at 202 (describing schedule C positions).

* See Lebron, 513 U.S. 374, 115 S.Ct. 961.

See Lebron, supra.

See Lebron, supra.

Summaries of

Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company

Jun 28, 2010
561 U.S. 477 (2010)

holding unconstitutional tenure provisions protecting executive officer, but concluding "the existence of the Board does not violate the separation of powers"

Summary of this case from Collins v. Yellen

holding that executive officials were inferior officers in large part because they were subject to a superior's removal

Summary of this case from Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. SW Gen., Inc.

holding that the structure of an independent agency violated the Constitution because the President, who is "accountable to the people for executing the laws," lacked the ability to hold the independent agency accountable

Summary of this case from Mayes v. Biden

holding that dual-layer for-cause removal restrictions for members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board were unconstitutional

Summary of this case from Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Aakash, Inc.

holding that dual-layer for-cause removal restrictions for members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board were unconstitutional

Summary of this case from Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Aakash, Inc.

holding that the structure of an independent agency violated the Constitution because the President, "who is accountable to the people for executing the laws," did not have the ability to hold the independent agency accountable

Summary of this case from Louisiana v. Biden

holding that the structure of an independent agency violated the Constitution because the President, "who is accountable to the people for executing the laws," did not have the ability to hold the independent agency accountable

Summary of this case from State v. President of United States

holding that district court had jurisdiction because all three Thunder Basin factors favored that result

Summary of this case from Cochran v. U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n

holding that the PCAOB's structure violated the Constitution, but nevertheless concluding that the plaintiffs were not entitled to injunctive relief

Summary of this case from Cochran v. U.S. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n

holding that to "blue-pencil" a statute would be to assume an "editorial freedom belongs to the Legislature"

Summary of this case from Sisney v. Kaemingk

holding that it unconstitutionally infringes the President's executive power to insulate the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board ("PCAOB") with two layers of tenure protection

Summary of this case from Fleming v. U.S. Dep't of Agric.

holding that Article II forbids providing two layers of tenure protections to officers of the United States

Summary of this case from Axon Enter. v. Fed. Trade Comm'n

holding that the firm was entitled to declaratory relief to ensure that it would be subject only to "a constitutional agency"

Summary of this case from Axon Enter. v. Fed. Trade Comm'n

holding that district court had jurisdiction because all three Thunder Basin factors favored that result

Summary of this case from Cochran v. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n

holding unconstitutional removal protections for officers of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board

Summary of this case from Cochran v. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n

holding court had jurisdiction over declaratory judgment action alleging violation of separation of powers

Summary of this case from Collins v. Mnuchin

holding petitioners were entitled to declaratory relief that PCAOB standards "will be enforced only by a constitutional agency accountable to the Executive"

Summary of this case from Collins v. Mnuchin

holding separation of powers requires Presidential oversight of the executive power

Summary of this case from Collins v. Mnuchin

holding that Congress cannot "deprive the President of adequate control over the Board, which is the regulator of first resort and the primary law enforcement authority for a vital sector of our economy"

Summary of this case from Collins v. Mnuchin

holding that Congress cannot "deprive the President of adequate control over the [Public Company Accounting Oversight] Board, which is the regulator of first resort and the primary law enforcement authority for a vital sector of our economy"

Summary of this case from Collins v. Mnuchin

holding that an Appointments Clause challenge to the PCAOB, which challenge was materially similar to the constitutional challenges raised here, did not require the type of “fact-bound inquir[y]” that called for agency expertise

Summary of this case from Hill v. Sec. & Exch. Comm'n

holding that the statute remained "fully operative as a law" following excision of unconstitutional provisions, so excision was permitted so long as continued enforceability of the excised statute would be consistent with congressional intent

Summary of this case from United States v. Under Seal

holding tenure provision severable from Sarbanes–Oxley Act

Summary of this case from Florida v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Serv.

holding that a constitutional challenge to statutory restraints on the removal of members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board members, who were appointed by the SEC, was collateral to the statutory scheme governing judicial review of SEC actions

Summary of this case from Music Choice v. Claggett

holding that need to deliberately incur administrative sanction to test law was not meaningful judicial review

Summary of this case from Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Dougherty
Case details for

Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company

Case Details



Date published: Jun 28, 2010


561 U.S. 477 (2010)
130 S. Ct. 3138
177 L. Ed. 2d 706

Citing Cases

PHH Corp. v. Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau

The mild constraint on removal of the CFPB Director contrasts with the cumbersome or encroaching removal…

Collins v. Mnuchin

Fortunately, under Synar and Free Enterprise Fund , we need not weigh in on that counterfactual.Free Enter.…