Why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Funding Structure Is Unconstitutional

“A three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled this week that the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional because Congress has no control over the agency’s budget, which is funded entirely by the Federal Reserve. Under the terms of Dodd-Frank, the CFPB is entitled to receive a budget totaling up to 12 percent of the Federal Reserve’s annual operating expenses, and the Federal Reserve is not allowed to refuse the CFPB’s requests for funding.

“Congress’s decision to abdicate its appropriations power under the Constitution, i.e., to cede its power of the purse to the Bureau, violates the Constitution’s structural separation of powers,” Judge Cory Wilson wrote in this week’s ruling.”

“”Congress did not merely cede direct control over the Bureau’s budget by insulating it from annual or other time-limited appropriations. It also ceded indirect control by providing that the Bureau’s self-determined funding be drawn from a source that is itself outside the appropriations process—a double insulation from Congress’s purse strings that is ‘unprecedented’ across the government,” Wilson wrote in the court’s ruling. “Even among self-funded agencies, the Bureau is unique. The Bureau’s perpetual self-directed, double-insulated funding structure goes a significant step further than that enjoyed by the other agencies on offer.””

Homeland Security Is Buying Its Way Around the Fourth Amendment

“American taxpayers pay to be spied upon. That’s one takeaway from new documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been examining how federal agents spent millions to purchase massive troves of cellphone location data and dodge Fourth Amendment requirements.

As part of a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the ACLU obtained thousands of previously unreleased records showing how DHS agencies—including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—are purchasing and accessing “huge volumes of people’s cell phone location information quietly extracted from smartphone apps.”

These agencies are “sidestepping our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable government searches and seizures,” suggests the ACLU.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court held (in Carpenter v. United States) that under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement must have a warrant before accessing a suspect’s phone location data from cellular service providers. But federal authorities have been getting around this by purchasing aggregated cellphone location data from data broker firms like Venntel and Babel Street. And they’re spending millions of taxpayer dollars doing it.”

Chile’s Proposed Left-Wing Constitution Could Spell Chaos

“Chile’s draft constitution is even longer than Venezuela’s, which was redrafted by Hugo Chávez’ administration during his first year in office and set the stage for the country’s socialist revolution, descent into dictatorship, and ensuing economic collapse.

Venezuela has had 26 constitutions in a little over two centuries. In general, the practice of scrapping and rewriting constitutions helps to explain Latin America’s relentless political turmoil.

A constitution provides legal stability and predictability—like a computer operating system. Tampering with any foundational code creates security holes that are easily exploited by political opportunists looking to amplify their own power and overturn the established order.

Even if Chileans reject the new constitution—and, thankfully, polls indicate that they probably will—Boric can choose to start the process again with the election of yet another constitutional assembly to draft yet another version.

That could bring years of chaos, economic stagnation, and legal uncertainty. Now that Latin America’s free market experiment and “economic miracle” may be coming to an end, hopefully, the rest of the world can learn from the experience of Chile once again: Beware leftist pipe dreams.”

Opinion | The Supreme Court Reform that Could Actually Win Bipartisan Support

“There is one idea, though, that has longstanding bipartisan support, a proven record of success, and practical wisdom behind it: term limits. Imposing term limits on Supreme Court justices would be good for the country and the court. It would help ease the bitterness of the confirmation process and make the court more representative of the public’s views. And while conservatives might currently balk in light of their 6-3 majority, it’s a change that would not necessarily advantage either side over the long run.

The most common version of this reform contemplates justices serving nonrenewable 18-year terms, staggered so that one term ends every two years. This would mean that presidents would get to nominate new justices in the first and third years of their own administrations. Retirements and nominations would occur like clockwork. The result would be a court whose membership, at any given time, would reflect the selections of the past 4 1/2 presidential administrations.

Because Article 3 of the Constitution confers life tenure upon all federal judges, term limits would likely require a constitutional amendment.”

Opinion | The Supreme Court Decisions on Guns and Abortion Relied Heavily on History. But Whose History?

“History has always played a role in constitutional interpretation, for some jurists more than others. But if history is going to be a key driver for the Supreme Court’s decisions — on the assumption that it is more legitimate than other forms of judicial discretion — then it is imperative to ask where the justices are getting their historical sources, whether those sources are fact-checked, and (most importantly) who is narrating the history.

Increasingly, the justices are relying on amicus briefs for historical information. Amicus briefs — also called “friend of the court” briefs — are submitted by third parties and have gone through a tremendous growth spurt at the Supreme Court in recent years.”

“These amicus briefs — sometimes signed by historians, sometimes not — are virtually all written by lawyers and often filed by motivated groups that are pressing for a particular outcome. The history they present, in other words, is mounted to make a point and served through an advocacy sieve. That distinguishes this type of history from the work product of professional historians who (even when they have a point of view) are trained to gather evidence dispassionately. As historian Alfred H. Kelly once put it, “The truth of history does not flow from its usefulness.” But usefulness is exactly the point when litigating a case at the Supreme Court — and historical sources are being used by the advocates to win.”

“The modern reality is the justices look to their friends and allies for historical sources, and rather than fact-check them — which they don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to do — they accept these historical narratives at face value. In the end, this creates an echo chamber where the history the justices cite is the history pressed to them by the groups and lawyers they trust, which conveniently comports with their preexisting worldviews and normative priors.”

“Professional historians are already complaining that the court got the history wrong in its recent cases, either by cherry-picking authorities or leaving out important nuance or both. When it came to the history of gun regulation, the court was awash in competing historical amicus briefs. The court chose one side, and in so doing caused historians to cry foul that the other history was ignored or distorted. In the abortion case, historians of the Middle Ages say some of the texts the court cites as proof that abortion was a crime in the 13th century are not about what we would think of as crime at all, but instead about “penance” imposed by the Church — an ambiguity easily lost on people who are unfamiliar with medieval Latin. Indeed, it is worth noting that much of the 13th-century history the court recounts seems to have come from a brief filed not by historians, but by professors of jurisprudence who publish on the moral implications of abortion — well-respected professors in their fields, perhaps, but certainly not medievalists.
This reveals a systemic problem about relying on amicus briefs for historical narratives: The amicus market is dominated by motivated scholars. Because many neutral experts do not pay attention to the courts or participate in advocacy, the historical accounts presented to the justices are necessarily incomplete and motivated to build a particular argument.”

“the Supreme Court should require anyone who files an amicus brief to disclose who paid for it. Current rules require disclosure only of whether the party contributed financially or otherwise to the brief, but they do little to shed light on briefs filed by neutral-sounding organizations that are in reality funded by those with an interest in the case (even if not the party).”

“the justices should borrow a practice from the laws of evidence and forbid any amicus brief presenting historical or other factual claims from adding accompanying legal argument. At trial in lower courts, there are strict limits on expert witnesses offering opinions on the law or generally opining on the case’s outcome. The idea is that this legal commentary detracts from the status of the expert as a neutral adviser, and that it oversteps the value and point of an expert witness in the first place.”

“justices should build in a process to request the specific history they are interested in earlier in the case’s timeline — in an attempt to recruit historians who may not be following the court’s every move but who are actual experts in the matter. If historians of medieval law knew their knowledge on abortion in the 13th century was so valuable when the court took the case (as opposed to after the leak in Dobbs) there might be incentive for more of them to participate in the briefing process.”

“If we are going to empower judges to referee history we must start paying more attention to the process through which they acquire that history. Many Americans see the court’s recent decisions as a threat to judicial legitimacy; perhaps one under-recognized threat to that legitimacy lies in the process used to make them.”

The Forgotten Constitutional Weapon Against Voter Restrictions

“perhaps a largely forgotten provision of the Constitution offers a solution to safeguard American democracy. Created amid some of the country’s most violent clashes over voting rights, Section 2 of the 14th Amendment provides a harsh penalty for any state where the right to vote is denied “or in any way abridged.”

A state that crosses the line would lose a percentage of its seats in the House of Representatives in proportion to how many voters it disenfranchises. If a state abridges voting rights for, say, 10 percent of its eligible voters, that state would lose 10 percent of its representatives — and with fewer House seats, it would get fewer votes in the Electoral College, too.”

Alito’s Junk History About Lochner

“The problem with the Bork/Alito view of Lochner is that it is wrong as a matter of constitutional text and history. Indeed, the drafting and ratification history of the 14th Amendment make clear that the amendment was originally understood to protect a broad range of unenumerated rights, including the right to economic liberty, sometimes called liberty of contract, which was the very right at issue in Lochner.

Consider the words of Rep. John Bingham, the Ohio Republican who chiefly authored the first section of the 14th Amendment, which reads: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” As Bingham told the House of Representatives, “the provisions of the Constitution guaranteeing rights, privileges, and immunities” include “the constitutional liberty…to work in an honest calling and contribute by your toil in some sort to the support of yourself, to the support of your fellow men, and to be secure in the enjoyment of the fruits of your toil.” In other words, the 14th Amendment was designed to protect, among other things, an unenumerated right to economic liberty.

Even those who opposed the 14th Amendment’s ratification said as much at the time. For example, Rep. Andrew Jackson Rogers (D–N.J.) complained to the House in 1866 that “all the rights we have under the laws of the country are embraced under the definition of privileges and immunities.” “The right to contract is a privilege,” he observed, adding, “I hold if that [the 14th Amendment] ever becomes a part of the fundamental law of the land, it will prevent any state from refusing to allow anything to anybody embraced under this term of privileges and immunities.”

To say the least, the fact that both advocates and opponents of the 14th Amendment agreed on its meaning at the time of ratification is strong originalist evidence in support of the Lochner Court’s reasoning and outcome. Contrary to the junk history peddled by Bork and Alito, Lochner is not a dirty word.”

The Founders Loved Jury Trials. Almost No One Gets One Anymore.

“What is the Sixth Amendment?

You wouldn’t be blamed for having to consult Google to answer that question. The Founders are rolling in their graves anyway.

It’s the right to a trial by jury, and it’s one that society has all but disposed of—despite the Framers’ insistence that it be included in the Bill of Rights as one of the primary bulwarks against government tyranny.

They didn’t exactly mince words. “Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty,” wrote John Adams. “Without them we have no fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle, and fed and clothed like swine and hogs.”

One wonders what animalistic metaphors Adams would conjure today if he could see the U.S. criminal justice system in motion: one in which about 97 percent of trials are resolved without juries, devoid of the sacrosanct lifeblood that keeps human liberty from death by suffocation.

That tool has been supplanted by the plea bargain. In popular culture, that’s widely seen as advantageous to defendants. In reality, it’s been disastrous. It epitomizes government coercion. It epitomizes what the Founders warned against.”

“The bulk of a prosecutor’s job is not spent in the hallowed halls of a courtroom participating in a high-stakes battle over someone’s liberty, all while journalists wait in the wings to capture the victor’s speech on marble steps. It’s spent in backrooms, with district attorneys “charge-stacking,” or filing multiple criminal charges against someone for the same offense, calculating a grisly potential prison sentence, and offering to make some of that go away—so long as the defendant in question does not exercise his or her constitutional right to a trial by jury.

If they refuse, then they will risk a substantially higher time behind bars, not because a prosecutor views it as necessary for public safety but because he or she dared to inconvenience them with a trial. After all, what the defendant is accused of didn’t change. But trials are expensive. And the government can never be sure when it will win, so better to avoid them where possible.

That latter part—the uncertainty—is supposed to be the point. It’s true that many criminal defendants are guilty. It’s also true that some are innocent and have been forced to pay with their liberty anyway. A person who is not guilty likely wants to go to trial. But why risk a decade behind bars for insisting on your Sixth Amendment right when you could be out in two or three?”

How the Founders Intended to Check the Supreme Court’s Power

“Deeply ingrained in the Constitution genius are checks and balances. The president can veto legislation; Congress can override a veto. The Courts can invalidate an act of Congress or the president. And the executive and legislative branches enjoy checks against the judiciary.

The Constitution called for the establishment of a Supreme Court and lower federal courts. It left it to Congress and the president to decide just what shape the judiciary would take. They did so in the Judiciary Act of 1789, which created district courts, circuit (or appellate) courts, and a six-member Supreme Court. Over the years, Congress, with the president’s approval, has increased and decreased the number of justices on the Supreme Court, created and changed the jurisdiction of district and circuit courts, and adjusted the number of federal judges.

By now, it’s well-known that Congress can change the size, and thus the composition, of the Supreme Court by simple legislation. Court-packing, as it’s been called since 1937, when President Franklin Roosevelt unsuccessfully attempted to circumvent a hostile court by expanding its membership, is a deeply controversial practice.

Critically, but less widely understood, the Constitution also grants Congress the power to strip the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction over specific matters. Article III, Section 2 reads: “In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

At least one founder was clear about the intent of Section 2. Hamilton wrote, “From this review of the particular powers of the federal judiciary, as marked out in the Constitution, it appears that they are all conformable to the principles which ought to have governed the structure of that department, and which were necessary to the perfection of the system. If some partial inconveniences should appear to be connected with the incorporation of any of them into the plan, it ought to be recollected that the national legislature will have ample authority to make such exceptions, and to prescribe such regulations as will be calculated to obviate or remove these inconveniences.”

Defenders of judicial review appropriately point to Federalist 78 as evidence that Hamilton believed the Constitution contained an implicit power of judicial review. But he also believed that Congress could adjust the court’s jurisdiction.

In practice, so few instances exist of jurisdictional stripping that its meaning and scope are open to debate. But it has happened. In the late 1860s, federal authorities jailed William McCardle, a newspaper editor, under provisions of the 1867 Military Reconstruction Act. McCardle sued for his freedom, citing the Habeas Corpus Act of 1867. Congress denied the justices jurisdiction in the matter, and the court conceded that it was powerless to act.

Writing several decades later, Justice Felix Frankfurter, an FDR appointee, noted that “Congress need not give this Court any appellate power; it may withdraw appellate jurisdiction once conferred and it may do so even while a case is sub judice.” Chief Justice Warren Burger, whom President Richard Nixon placed on the bench, agreed, writing that Congress could pass simple legislation “limiting or prohibiting judicial review of its directives.”

No less than the executive and legislative branches, the judiciary — particularly, the Supreme Court — is limited in just how much power it can exert. But only if Congress and the president exercise their right to check its power.”

“A world in which a highly partisan and increasingly unpopular Supreme Court found its jurisdiction routinely boxed out by Congress is hardly a recipe for political stability. With every change of control, a new Congress and president could overturn precedent and lock the court out of its intended role as a constitutional arbiter. Moreover, there would likely be widespread confusion over just what might happen, were Congress to strip the court of its jurisdiction over, say, the state legislative doctrine. Would it then be left to lower courts to adjudicate cases? And what if they disagreed?

Conversely, today’s court majority claims largely unchecked power.

John Marshall, the chief justice who first asserted the power of judicial review, was “notably cautious in dealing with cases that might excite Republican or popular sensibilities,” noted historian Charles Sellers. He sought consensus among the associate justices, Federalists and Republicans alike, operated with “restraint” (Sellers) and led with “lax, lounging manners” (Thomas Jefferson) rather than cutting partisanship. He did so because he understood that the court was a new institution, and were it to lose popular support, the powers it claimed for itself would become either unenforceable, or subject to congressional restraint.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility and prerogative of the executive and legislative branches to encourage greater restraint and humility on the part of the judiciary.

Judicial review is well-rooted in American political tradition. But so are checks and balances. To save the Supreme Court from itself, Congress might first have to shrink it.”

The Supreme Court tears a new hole in the wall separating church and state

“The specific program at issue in Carson is unusual to Maine. About 5,000 students in Maine’s most rural areas, where it is not cost-efficient for the state to operate a public school, receive tuition vouchers that can be used to pay for private education. Maine law provides that these vouchers may only be used at “nonsectarian” schools, not religious ones.

Carson struck down this law excluding religious schools from the Maine voucher program, and that decision could have broad implications far beyond the few thousand students in Maine who benefit from these tuition subsidies.

Not that long ago, the Court required the government to remain neutral on questions of religion — a requirement that flowed from the First Amendment’s command that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In practice, that meant that the government could neither impose burdens on religious institutions that it didn’t impose on others, nor could it actively subsidize religion.

Carson turns this neutrality rule on its head, holding that government benefit programs that exclude religious institutions engage in “discrimination against religion” that violates the Constitution.

At the same time, however, Carson also contains significant language confining the scope of this new rule. If the government cannot create benefit programs that exclude religion, then under the most extreme version of this argument, it is unclear why traditional public schools — which provide secular but not religious education — are constitutional. Secular public schools, after all, are government institutions that maintain neutrality toward religion. And, under the new rule announced in Carson, neutrality is unconstitutional discrimination.

But Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion in Carson states explicitly that “Maine may provide a strictly secular education in its public schools.” And it reaffirms the Court’s holding in a 2020 decision that “a State need not subsidize private education.” That means that most students who receive a state-subsidized education will not be indoctrinated into a faith.

Nevertheless, one upshot of the Carson decision is that Maine’s taxpayers will be forced to pay for education that many of them will view as offensive. As the state explained in its brief, the plaintiff families in this case want the state to pay at least part of the tuition at private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ teachers and students. One of these schools allegedly requires teachers to agree that “the Bible says that ‘God recognize[s] homosexuals and other deviants as perverted’” and that “[s]uch deviation from Scriptural standards is grounds for termination.’”

After Tuesday’s decision, these families are all but certain to get their wish — Maine would have to significantly rework its education policies to avoid such an outcome — and Maine’s taxpayers will soon have to fund education at schools with outlandish or even bigoted worldviews.”