The Supreme Court has a new mixed drink: it’s five parts formalism to four parts functionalism, with a dash of Humphrey’s Executor. This new drink was on full display in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, in which five Justices concluded that Congress violated the separation of powers when it placed limits on the president’s power to fire the CFPB’s director. Those five Justices used what’s called the “formalist” approach, prevailing over the competing “functionalist” approach adopted by the four dissenting Justices. Throughout history, the Court has oscillated between formalism and functionalism, especially in cases involving the president’s power to remove public officials. For the latter half of the 20th century, functionalism appeared to be the dominant approach to removal-power cases—until two recent decisions from the Roberts court. Might formalism now be seeing a resurgence?
For the first time since 1996, the Supreme Court’s term has officially extended into the month of July. The Court decided five cases this week, touching on abortion, free speech, religious liberty, administrative agencies, and copyright law. It also added four cases to next term’s docket, one of which concerns the release of grand jury materials from Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Here’s a recap of the Court’s busy week.
This week, the Justices heard oral argument in what is likely the most explosive case of the term: June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, a challenge to a Louisiana law that requires physicians who perform abortions to have “admitting privileges” at area hospitals. Another high-profile case that was argued this week is Seila Law, LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the constitutional challenge to the structure of the CFPB. Next, the Court decided Kansas v. Garcia, a case that asked whether the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 preempts certain Kansas identity-theft statutes (the answer is no). More nuggets came in the Court’s cert grant in California v. Texas, the latest lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate”; and from a statement by Justice Gorsuch following Monday’s orders list. Here’s another packed summary of the Supreme Court’s proceedings for the week of March 2.