« Erwin Chemerinsky on Judge Gorsuch and Originalism
Michael Ramsey
| Main | Robert Natelson: The Original Meaning of the Constitution's Postal Clause
Michael Ramsey
»

02/18/2017

Jennifer Mascott: Who are "Officers of the United States"?
Michael Ramsey

Jennifer L. Mascott (Georgetown University Law Center) has posted Who are "Officers of the United States"? on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

For decades courts have believed that only officials with “significant authority” are “Officers of the United States” subject to the Constitution’s Article II Appointments Clause requirements. But this standard has proven difficult to apply to major categories of officials, leading to a circuit split this past December over whether certain administrative law judges need Article II appointments. This article challenges whether “significant authority” is even the proper standard, using two distinctive tools: (i) “corpus linguistics”-style analysis of Founding Era documents and (ii) examination of appointments practices in the Continental Congress and the First Federal Congress. Both strongly suggest the original public meaning of “officer” is much broader than modern doctrine assumes—encompassing any government official with responsibility for an ongoing governmental duty. 

This historical meaning of “officer” likely would extend to thousands of officials not currently appointed as Article II “officers,” such as tax collectors, disaster relief officials, federal inspectors, customs officials, and administrative judges. This conclusion might at first seem destructive to the civil service structure. But this article suggests that core components of the current federal hiring system might fairly readily be brought into compliance with Article II by amending who exercises final approval to rank candidates and hire them. These feasible but significant changes would restore a critical mechanism for democratic accountability and transparency intended by the Framers.

Via Larry Solum at Legal Theory Blog, who comments:

This is a very sophisticated piece from one of a new generation of originalist scholars who employ corpus linguistics (big data techniques for determining semantic meaning) as part of the investigation of "original public meaning."  One of the very first pieces to do this in a systematic way using the approach developed in linguistics, this is one of those articles that is truly "path breaking."  Highly recommended.  Download it while it's hot!