Clause 2

Clause 2. He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Court of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

President and Senate

The plan that the Committee of Detail reported to the Federal Convention on August 6, 1787 provided that “the Senate of the United States shall have power to make treaties, and to appoint Ambassadors, and Judges of the Supreme Court.”298 Not until September 7, ten days before the Convention’s final adjournment, was the President made a participant in these powers.299 The constitutional clause evidently assumes that the President and Senate will be associated throughout the entire process of making a treaty, although Jay, writing in The Federalist, foresaw that the initiative must often be seized by the President without benefit of senatorial counsel.300 Yet, so late as 1818 Rufus King, Senator from New York, who had been a member of the Convention, declared on the floor of the Senate: “In these concerns the Senate are the Constitutional and the only responsible counselors of the President. And in this capacity the Senate may, and ought to, look into and watch over every branch of the foreign affairs of the nation; they may, therefore, at any time call for full and exact information respecting the foreign affairs, and express their opinion and advice to the President respecting the same, when, and under whatever other circumstances, they may think such advice expedient.”301

Negotiation, a Presidential Monopoly.

Actually, the nego- tiation of treaties had long since been taken over by the President; the Senate’s role in relation to treaties is today essentially legislative in character.302 “He alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation, the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it,” declared Justice Sutherland for the Court in 1936.303 The Senate must, moreover, content itself with such information as the President chooses to furnish it.304 In performing the function that remains to it, however, it has several options. It may consent unconditionally to a proposed treaty, it may refuse its consent, or it may stipulate conditions in the form of amendments to the treaty, of reservations to the act of ratification, or of statements of understanding or other declarations, the formal difference between the first two and the third being that amendments and reservations, if accepted by the President must be communicated to the other parties to the treaty, and, at least with respect to amendments and often reservations as well, require reopening negotiations and changes, whereas the other actions may have more problematic results.305 The act of ratification for the United States is the President’s act, but it may not be forthcoming unless the Senate has consented to it by the required two-thirds of the Senators present, which signifies two-thirds of a quorum, otherwise the consent rendered would not be that of the Senate as organized under the Constitution to do business.306 Conversely, the President may, if dissatisfied with amendments which have been affixed by the Senate to a proposed treaty or with the conditions stipulated by it to ratification, decide to abandon the negotiation, which he is entirely free to do.307

Treaties as Law of the Land

Treaty commitments of the United States are of two kinds. As Chief Justice Marshall wrote in 1829: “A treaty is, in its nature, a contract between two nations, not a legislative act. It does not generally effect, of itself, the object to be accomplished; especially, so far as its operation is infra-territorial; but is carried into execution by the sovereign power of the respective parties to the instrument. In the United States, a different principle is established. Our constitution declares a treaty to be the law of the land. It is, consequently, to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself, without the aid of any legislative provision. But when the terms of the stipulation import a contract—when either of the parties engages to perform a particular act, the treaty addresses itself to the political, not the judicial department; and the legislature must execute the contract, before it can become a rule for the court.”308

To the same effect, but more accurate, is Justice Miller’s language for the Court a half century later, in the Head Money Cases: “A treaty is primarily a compact between independent nations. It depends for the enforcement of its provisions on the interest and the honor of the governments which are parties of it. . . . But a treaty may also contain provisions which confer certain rights upon the citizens or subjects of one of the nations residing in the territorial limits of the other, which partake of the nature of municipal law, and which are capable of enforcement as between private parties in the courts of the country.”309

The meaning of treaties, as of statutes, is determined by the courts. “If treaties are to be given effect as federal law under our legal system, determining their meaning as a matter of federal law ‘is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department,’ headed by the ‘one supreme Court’ established by the Constitution.”310 Yet, “[w]hile courts interpret treaties for themselves, the meaning given them by the departments of government particularly charged with their negotiation and enforcement is given great weight.”311 Decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) interpreting treaties, however, have “no binding force except between the parties and in respect of that particular case.”312 ICJ decisions “are therefore entitled only to the ‘respectful consideration’ due an interpretation of an international agreement by an international court.”313

Even when an ICJ decision has binding force as between the governments of two nations, it is not necessarily enforceable by the individuals affected. If, for example, the ICJ finds that the United States violated a particular defendant’s rights under international law, and such a decision “constitutes an international law obligation on the part of the United States,” it does not necessarily “constitute binding federal law enforceable in United States courts. . . . [W]hile treaties may comprise international commitments . . . they are not domestic law unless Congress has either enacted implementing statutes or the treaty itself conveys an intention that it be self-executing and is ratified on these terms.”314 A memorandum from the President of the United States directing that the United States would “discharge its international obligations” under an ICJ decision interpreting a non-self-executing treaty, “by having State courts give effect to the decision,” is not sufficient to make the decision binding on state courts, unless the President’s action is authorized by Congress.315

Origin of the Conception.

How did this distinctive feature of the Constitution come about, by virtue of which the treaty-making authority is enabled to stamp upon its promises the quality of municipal law, thereby rendering them enforceable by the courts without further action? The short answer is that Article VI, paragraph 2, makes treaties the supreme law of the land on the same footing with acts of Congress. The clause was a direct result of one of the major weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. Although the Articles entrusted the treaty-making power to Congress, fulfillment of Congress’s promises was dependent on the state legislatures.316 Particularly with regard to provisions of the Treaty of Peace of 1783,317 in which Congress stipulated to protect the property rights of British creditors of American citizens and of the former Loyalists,318 the promises were not only ignored but were deliberately flouted by many legislatures.319 Upon repeated British protests, John Jay, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, suggested to Congress that it request state legislatures to repeal all legislation repugnant to the Treaty of Peace and to authorize their courts to carry the treaty into effect.320 Although seven states did comply to some extent, the impotency of Congress to effectuate its treaty guarantees was obvious to the Framers who devised Article VI, paragraph 2, to take care of the situation.321

Treaties and the States.

As it so happened, the first case in which the Supreme Court dealt with the question of the effect of treaties on state laws involved the same issue that had prompted the drafting of Article VI, paragraph 2. During the Revolutionary War, the Virginia legislature provided that the Commonwealth’s paper money, which was depreciating rapidly, was to be legal currency for the payment of debts and to confound creditors who would not accept the currency provided that Virginia citizens could pay into the state treasury debts owed by them to subjects of Great Britain, which money was to be used to prosecute the war, and that the auditor would give the debtor a certificate of payment which would discharge the debtor of all future obligations to the creditor.322 The Virginia scheme directly contradicted the assurances in the peace treaty that no bars to collection by British creditors would be raised, and in Ware v. Hylton323 the Court struck down the state law as violating the treaty that Article VI, paragraph 2, made superior. Justice Chase wrote: “A treaty cannot be the supreme law of the land, that is, of all the United States, if any act of a state legislature can stand in its way. If the constitution of a state . . . must give way to a treaty, and fall before it; can it be questioned, whether the less power, an act of the state legislature, must not be prostrate? It is the declared will of the people of the United States, that every treaty made by the authority of the United States, shall be superior to the constitution and laws of any individual state; and their will alone is to decide.”324

In Hopkirk v. Bell,325 the Court further held that this same treaty provision prevented the operation of a Virginia statute of limitations to bar collection of antecedent debts. In numerous subsequent cases, the Court invariably ruled that treaty provisions superseded inconsistent state laws governing the right of aliens to inherit real estate.326 An example is Hauenstein v. Lynham,327 in which the Court upheld the right of a citizen of the Swiss Republic, under the treaty of 1850 with that country, to recover the estate of a relative dying intestate in Virginia, to sell the same, and to export the proceeds of the sale.328

Certain more recent cases stem from California legislation, most of it directed against Japanese immigrants. A statute that excluded aliens ineligible for American citizenship from owning real estate was upheld in 1923 on the ground that the treaty in question did not secure the rights claimed.329 But, in Oyama v. California,330 a majority of the Court opined that this legislation conflicted with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a view that has since been endorsed by the California Supreme Court by a narrow majority.331 Meantime, California was informed that the rights of German nationals, under the Treaty of December 8, 1923, between the United States and the Reich, to whom real property in the United States had descended or been devised, to dispose of it, had survived the recent war and certain war legislation, and accordingly prevailed over conflicting state legislation.332

Treaties and Congress.

In the Convention, a proposal to re- quire the adoption of treaties through enactment of a law before they should be binding was rejected.333 But the years since have seen numerous controversies with regard to the duties and obligations of Congress, the necessity for congressional action, and the effects of statutes, in connection with the treaty power. For purposes of this section, the question is whether entry into and ratification of a treaty is sufficient in all cases to make the treaty provisions the “law of the land” or whether there are some types of treaty provisions that only a subsequent act of Congress can put into effect. The language quoted above334 from Foster v. Neilson335 early established that not all treaties are self-executing, for, as Marshall said in that decision, a treaty is “to be regarded in courts of justice as equivalent to an act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself, without the aid of any legislative provision.”336

Leaving aside the question of when a treaty is and is not self-executing,337 the issue of the necessity of congressional implementation and the obligation to implement has frequently roiled congressional debates. The matter arose initially in 1796 in connection with the Jay Treaty,338 certain provisions of which required appropriations to carry them into effect. In view of Article I, § 9, clause 7, which says that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . . ,” it seems to have been universally conceded that Congress must be applied to if the treaty provisions were to be executed.339 A bill was introduced in the House to appropriate the needed funds, and its supporters, within and without Congress, argued that, because the treaty was the law of the land, the legislative branch was bound to enact the bill without further ado; opponents led by Madison and Albert Gallatin contended that the House had complete discretion whether or not to carry into effect treaty provisions.340 At the conclusion of the debate, the House voted not only the money but a resolution offered by Madison stating that it did not claim any agency in the treaty-making process, “but that when a treaty stipulates regulations on any of the subjects submitted by the Constitution to the power of Congress, it must depend for its execution as to such stipulations on a law or laws to be passed by Congress, and it is the constitutional right and duty of the House of Representatives in all such cases to deliberate on the expediency or inexpediency of carrying such treaty into effect, and to determine and act thereon as in their judgment may be most conducive to the public good.”341 This early precedent with regard to appropriations has apparently been uniformly adhered to.342

Similarly, with regard to treaties that modify commercial tariff arrangements, the practice has been that the House always insisted on and the Senate acquiesced in legislation to carry into effect the provisions of such treaties.343 The earliest congressional dispute came over an 1815 Convention with Great Britain,344 which provided for reciprocal reduction of duties. President Madison thereupon recommended to Congress such legislation as the convention might require for effectuation. The Senate and some members of the House believed that no implementing legislation was necessary because of a statute that already permitted the President to reduce duties on goods of nations that did not discriminate against United States goods; the House majority felt otherwise and compromise legislation was finally enacted acceptable to both points of view.345 But subsequent cases have seen legislation enacted;346 the Senate once refused to ratify a treaty that purported to reduce statutorily determined duties,347 and congressional enactment of authority for the President to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements all seem to point to the necessity of some form of congressional implementation.

What other treaty provisions need congressional implementation is debatable. A 1907 memorandum approved by the Secretary of State stated that the limitations on the treaty power that necessitate legislative implementation may “be found in the provisions of the Constitution which expressly confide in Congress or in other branches of the Federal Government the exercise of certain of the delegated powers. . . .”348 The same thought has been expressed in Congress349 and by commentators.350 Resolution of the issue seems to be for legislative and executive branches rather than for the courts.

Congressional Repeal of Treaties.

Madison contended that, when Congress is asked to carry a treaty into effect, it has the constitutional right, and indeed the duty, to determine the matter according to its own ideas of what is expedient.351 Developments have vindicated Madison in this regard. This is seen in the answer that the Court gave to the question: What happens when a treaty provision and an act of Congress conflict? The answer is that neither has any intrinsic superiority over the other and therefore the later one will prevail. In short, the treaty commitments of the United States do not diminish Congress’s constitutional powers. To be sure, legislative repeal of a treaty as law of the land may amount to its violation as an international contract. In such case, as the Court said, “its infraction becomes the subject of international negotiations and reclamations, so far as the injured party chooses to seek redress, which may in the end be enforced by actual war. It is obvious that with all this the judicial courts have nothing to do and can give no redress.”352

Treaties Versus Prior Acts of Congress.

The Court has en- forced numerous statutory provisions that it recognized as superseding prior treaty engagements. Chief Justice Marshall asserted that the converse would be true as well353 —that a treaty that is self-executing is the law of the land and prevails over an earlier inconsistent statute—and this proposition has been repeated many times in dicta.354 But there is dispute whether in fact a treaty has ever been held to have repealed or superseded an inconsistent statute. Willoughby, for example, writes: “In fact, however, there have been few (the writer is not certain that there has been any) instances in which a treaty inconsistent with a prior act of Congress has been given full force and effect as law in this country without the assent of Congress. There may indeed have been cases in which, by treaty, certain action has been taken without reference to existing Federal laws, as, for example, where by treaty certain populations have been collectively naturalized, but such treaty action has not operated to repeal or annul the existing law upon the subject.”355

The one instance that may be an exception356 is Cook v. United States,357 in which a divided Court held that a 1924 treaty with Great Britain that allowed the inspection of British vessels for contraband liquor and seizure if any was found had superseded the authority conferred by a section of the Tariff Act of 1922358 The difficulty with this case is that the Tariff Act provision had been reenacted in 1930,359 so that a simple application of the rule that the later enactment governs should have caused a different result. It may be suspected that the low estate to which Prohibition had fallen and a desire to avoid a diplomatic controversy should the seizure at issue have been upheld influenced the Court’s decision.

When Is a Treaty Self-Executing.

Several references have been made above to a distinction between treaties as self-executing and as merely executory, in which case they are enforceable only after the enactment of “legislation to carry them into effect.”360 But what is it about a treaty that makes it the law of the land and gives a private litigant the right to rely on it in a court of law? As early as 1801, the Supreme Court took notice of a treaty, and, finding it applicable to the situation before it, gave judgment for the petitioner based on it.361 In Foster v. Neilson,362 Chief Justice Marshall explained that a treaty is to be regarded “as equivalent to an act of the legislature, whenever it operates of itself, without the aid of any legislative provision.” A treaty will not be self-executing, however, “when the terms of the [treaty] stipulation import a contract— when either of the parties engages to perform a particular act. . . .” When this is the case, “the treaty addresses itself to the political, not the judicial department; and the legislature must execute the contract, before it can become a rule for the court.”363

Sometimes the nature of a treaty will determine whether it requires legislative execution or “conveys an intention that it be ‘self-executing’ and is ratified on these terms.”364 One authority states that whether a treaty is self-executing “depends upon whether the obligation is imposed on private individuals or on public authorities. . . .”

“Treaty provisions which define the rights and obligations of private individuals and lay down general principles for the guidance of military, naval or administrative officials in relation thereto are usually considered self-executing. Thus treaty provisions assuring aliens equal civil rights with citizens, defining the limits of national jurisdiction, and prescribing rules of prize, war and neutrality, have been so considered . . . .”

“On the other hand certain treaty obligations are addressed solely to public authorities, of which may be mentioned those requiring the payment of money, the cession of territory, the guarantee of territory or independence, the conclusion of subsequent treaties on described subjects, the participation in international organizations, the collection and supplying of information, and direction of postal, telegraphic or other services, the construction of buildings, bridges, lighthouses, etc.”365 It may well be that these two characteristics merge with each other at many points and the language of the Court is not always helpful in distinguishing them.366

Treaties and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

What power, or powers, does Congress exercise when it enacts legislation for the purpose of carrying treaties of the United States into effect? When the subject matter of the treaty falls within the ambit of Congress’s enumerated powers, then it is these powers that it exercises in carrying the treaty into effect. But if the treaty deals with a subject that falls within the national jurisdiction because of its international character, then recourse is had to the Necessary and Proper Clause. Thus, of itself, Congress would have had no power to confer judicial powers upon foreign consuls in the United States, but the treaty-power can do this and has done it repeatedly and Congress has supplemented these treaties by appropriate legislation.367 Congress could not confer judicial power upon American consuls abroad to be exercised over American citizens abroad, but the treaty-power can and has, and Congress has passed legislation perfecting such agreements, and the Supreme Court has upheld such legislation.368

Again, Congress of itself could not provide for the extradition of fugitives from justice, but the treaty-power can and has done so scores of times, and Congress has passed legislation carrying our extradition treaties into effect.369 And Congress could not ordinarily penalize private acts of violence within a state, but it can punish such acts if they deprive aliens of their rights under a treaty.370 Referring to such legislation, the Court has said: “The power of Congress to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution as well the powers enumerated in section 8 of Article I of the Constitution, as all others vested in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or the officers thereof, includes the power to enact such legislation as is appropriate to give efficacy to any stipulations which it is competent for the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate to insert in a treaty with foreign power.”371 In a word, the treaty-power cannot purport to amend the Constitution by adding to the list of Congress’s enumerated powers, but having acted, the consequence will often be that it has provided Congress with an opportunity to enact measures that independently of a treaty Congress could not enact; the only question that can be raised as to such measures is whether they are “necessary and proper” for the carrying of the treaty in question into operation.

The foremost example of this interpretation is Missouri v. Holland.372 There, the United States and Great Britain had entered into a treaty for the protection of migratory birds,373 and Congress had enacted legislation pursuant to the treaty to effectuate it.374 Missouri objected that such regulation was reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment and that the statute infringed on this reservation, pointing to lower court decisions voiding an earlier act not based on a treaty.375 Noting that treaties “are declared the supreme law of the land,” Justice Holmes for the Court said: “If the treaty is valid there can be no dispute about the validity of the statute under Article I, § 8, as a necessary and proper means to execute the powers of the Government.”376 “It is obvious,” he continued, “that there may be matters of the sharpest exigency for the national well being that an act of Congress could not deal with but that a treaty followed by such an act could, and it is not lightly to be assumed that, in matters requiring national action, ‘a power which must belong to and somewhere reside in every civilized government’ is not to be found.”377 Because the treaty and thus the statute dealt with a matter of national and international concern, the treaty was proper and the statute was “necessary and proper” to effectuate the treaty.

Constitutional Limitations on the Treaty Power

A question growing out of the discussion above is whether the treaty power is bounded by constitutional limitations. By the Supremacy Clause, both statutes and treaties “are declared . . . to be the supreme law of the land, and no superior efficacy is given to either over the other.”378 As statutes may be held void because they contravene the Constitution, it should follow that treaties may be held void, the Constitution being superior to both. And indeed the Court has numerous times so stated.379 It does not appear that the Court has ever held a treaty unconstitutional,380 although there are cases in which the decision seemed to be compelled by constitutional considerations.381 In fact, there would be little argument with regard to the general point were it not for dicta in Justice Holmes’ opinion in Missouri v. Holland.382 “Acts of Congress,” he said, “are the supreme law of the land only when made in pursuance of the Constitution, while treaties are declared to be so when made under the authority of the United States. It is open to question whether the authority of the United States means more than the formal acts prescribed to make the convention.” Although he immediately followed this passage with a cautionary “[w]e do not mean to imply that there are no qualifications to the treaty-making power . . . ,”383 the Justice’s language and the holding by which it appeared that the reserved rights of the states could be invaded through the treaty power led in the 1950s to an abortive effort to amend the Constitution to restrict the treaty power.384

Controversy over Holmes’ language apparently led Justice Black in Reid v. Covert385 to deny that the difference in language of the Supremacy Clause with regard to statutes and with regard to treaties was relevant to the status of treaties as inferior to the Constitution. “There is nothing in this language which intimates that treaties do not have to comply with the provisions of the Constitution. Nor is there anything in the debates which accompanied the drafting and ratification of the Constitution which even suggests such a result. These debates as well as the history that surrounds the adoption of the treaty provision in Article VI make it clear that the reason treaties were not limited to those made in ‘pursuance’ of the Constitution was so that agreements made by the United States under the Articles of Confederation, including the important treaties which concluded the Revolutionary War, would remain in effect. It would be manifestly contrary to the objectives of those who created the Constitution, as well as those who were responsible for the Bill of Rights—let alone alien to our entire constitutional history and tradition—to construe Article VI as permitting the United States to exercise power under an international agreement without observing constitutional prohibitions. In effect, such construction would permit amendment of that document in a manner not sanctioned by Article V.”386

Establishment of the general principle, however, is but the beginning; there is no readily agreed-upon standard for determining what the limitations are. The most persistently urged proposition in limitation has been that the treaty power must not invade the reserved powers of the states. In view of the sweeping language of the Supremacy Clause, it is hardly surprising that this argument has not prevailed.387 Nevertheless, the issue, in the context of Congress’s power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to effectuate a treaty dealing with a subject arguably within the domain of the states, was presented as recently as 1920, when the Court upheld a treaty and implementing statute providing for the protection of migratory birds.388 “The treaty in question does not contravene any prohibitory words to be found in the Constitution. The only question is whether it is forbidden by some invisible radiation from the general terms of the Tenth Amendment.”389 The gist of the holding followed. “Here a national interest of very nearly the first magnitude is involved. It can be protected only by national action in concert with that of another power. The subject-matter is only transitorily within the State and has no permanent habitat therein. But for the treaty and the statute there soon might be no birds for any powers to deal with. We see nothing in the Constitution that compels the government to sit by while a food supply is cut off and the protectors of our forests and our crops are destroyed.”390

The doctrine that seems to follow from this case and others is “that in all that properly relates to matters of international rights and obligations, whether these rights and obligations rest upon the general principles of international law or have been conventionally created by specific treaties, the United States possesses all the powers of a constitutionally centralized sovereign State; and, therefore, that when the necessity from the international standpoint arises the treaty power may be exercised, even though thereby the rights ordinarily reserved to the States are invaded.”391 It is not, in other words, the treaty power that enlarges either the federal power or the congressional power, but the international character of the interest concerned that might be acted upon.

Dicta in some of the cases lend support to the argument that the treaty power is limited by the delegation of powers among the branches of the National Government392 and especially by the delegated powers of Congress, although it is not clear what the limitation means. If it is meant that no international agreement could be constitutionally entered into by the United States within the sphere of such powers, the practice from the beginning has been to the contrary;393 if it is meant that treaty provisions dealing with matters delegated to Congress must, in order to become the law of the land, receive the assent of Congress through implementing legislation, it states not a limitation on the power of making treaties as international conventions but rather a necessary procedure before certain conventions are cognizable by the courts in the enforcement of rights under them.

It has also been suggested that the prohibitions against governmental action contained in the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, limit the exercise of the treaty power. No doubt this is true, though again there are no cases which so hold.394

One other limitation of sorts may be contained in the language of certain court decisions that seem to say that only matters of “international concern” may be the subject of treaty negotiations.395 Although this may appear to be a limitation, it does not take account of the elasticity of the concept of “international concern” by which the subject matter of treaties has constantly expanded over the years.396 At best, any attempted resolution of the issue of limitations must be an uneasy one.397

In brief, the fact that all the foreign relations power is vested in the National Government and that no formal restriction is imposed on the treaty-making power in the international context398 leaves little room for the notion of a limited treaty-making power with regard to the reserved rights of the states or in regard to the choice of matters concerning which the Federal Government may treat with other nations; protected individual rights appear to be sheltered by specific constitutional guarantees from the domestic effects of treaties, and the separation of powers at the federal level may require legislative action to give municipal effect to international agreements.

Interpretation and Termination of Treaties as International Compacts

The repeal by Congress of the “self-executing” clauses of a treaty as “law of the land” does not of itself terminate the treaty as an international contract, although it may very well provoke the other party to the treaty to do so. Hence, the questions arise where the Constitution lodges this power and where it lodges the power to interpret the contractual provisions of treaties. The first case of outright abrogation of a treaty by the United States occurred in 1798, when Congress by the Act of July 7 of that year, pronounced the United States freed and exonerated from the stipulations of the Treaties of 1778 with France.399 This act was followed two days later by one authorizing limited hostilities against the same country; in Bas v. Tingy,400 the Supreme Court treated the act of abrogation as simply one of a bundle of acts declaring “public war” upon the French Republic.

Termination of Treaties by Notice.

Typically, a treaty pro- vides for its termination by notice of one of the parties, usually after a prescribed time from the date of notice. Of course, treaties may also be terminated by agreement of the parties, or by breach by one of the parties, or by some other means. But it is in the instance of termination by notice that the issue has frequently been raised: where in the Government of the United States does the Constitution lodge the power to unmake treaties?401 Reasonable arguments may be made locating the power in the President alone, in the President and Senate, or in the Congress. Presidents generally have asserted the foreign relations power reposed in them under Article II and the inherent powers argument made in Curtiss-Wright. Because the Constitution requires the consent of the Senate for making a treaty, one can logically argue that its consent is also required for terminating it. Finally, because treaties are, like statutes, the supreme law of the land, it may well be argued that, again like statutes, they may be undone only through law-making by the entire Congress; additionally, since Congress may be required to implement treaties and may displace them through legislation, this argument is reenforced.

Definitive resolution of this argument appears only remotely possible. Historical practice provides support for all three arguments and the judicial branch seems unlikely to essay any answer.

Although abrogation of the French treaty, mentioned above, is apparently the only example of termination by Congress through a public law, many instances may be cited of congressional actions mandating terminations by notice of the President or changing the legal environment so that the President is required to terminate. The initial precedent in the instance of termination by notice pursuant to congressional action appears to have occurred in 1846,402 when by joint resolution Congress authorized the President at his discretion to notify the British government of the abrogation of the Convention of August 6, 1827, relative to the joint occupation of the Oregon Territory. As the President himself had requested the resolution, the episode is often cited to support the theory that international conventions to which the United States is a party, even those terminable on notice, are terminable only through action of Congress.403 Subsequently, Congress has often passed resolutions denouncing treaties or treaty provisions, which by their own terms were terminable on notice, and Presidents have usually, though not invariably, carried out such resolutions.404 By the La Follette-Furuseth Seaman’s Act,405 President Wilson was directed, “within ninety days after the passage of the act, to give notice to foreign governments that so much of any treaties as might be in conflict with the provisions of the act would terminate on the expiration of the periods of notice provided for in such treaties,” and the required notice was given.406 When, however, by section 34 of the Jones Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the same President was authorized and directed within ninety days to give notice to the other parties to certain treaties, with which the Act was not in conflict but which might restrict Congress in the future from enacting discriminatory tonnage duties, President Wilson refused to comply, asserting that he “did not deem the direction contained in section 34 . . . an exercise of any constitutional power possessed by Congress.”407 The same attitude toward section 34 was continued by Presidents Harding and Coolidge.408

Very few precedents exist in which the President terminated a treaty after obtaining the approval of the Senate alone. The first occurred in 1854–1855, when President Pierce requested and received Senate approval to terminate a treaty with Denmark.409 When the validity of this action was questioned in the Senate, the Committee on Foreign Relations reported that the procedure was correct, that prior full-Congress actions were incorrect, and that the right to terminate resides in the treaty-making authorities, the President and the Senate.410

Examples of treaty terminations in which the President acted alone are much disputed with respect both to facts and to the underlying legal circumstances.411 Apparently, President Lincoln was the first to give notice of termination in the absence of prior congressional authorization or direction, and Congress shortly thereafter by joint resolution ratified his action.412 The first such action by the President, with no such subsequent congressional action, appears to be that of President McKinley in 1899, in terminating an 1850 treaty with Switzerland, but the action may be explainable as the treaty being inconsistent with a subsequently enacted law.413 Other such renunciations by the President acting on his own have been similarly explained and similarly the explanations have been controverted. Although the Department of State, in setting forth legal justification for President Carter’s notice of termination of the treaty with Taiwan, cited many examples of a President’s acting alone, many of these are ambiguous and may be explained away by, for example, conflicts with later statutes, changed circumstances, or the like.414

No such ambiguity accompanied President Carter’s action on the Taiwan treaty,415 and a somewhat lengthy Senate debate was provoked. In the end, the Senate on a preliminary vote approved a “sense of the Senate” resolution claiming for itself a consenting role in the termination of treaties, but no final vote was ever taken and the Senate thus did not place itself in conflict with the President.416 However, several Members of Congress went to court to contest the termination, apparently the first time a judicial resolution of the question had been sought. A divided Court of Appeals, on the merits, held that presidential action was sufficient by itself to terminate treaties, but the Supreme Court, no majority agreeing on a common ground, vacated that decision and instructed the trial court to dismiss the suit.417 Although no Court opinion bars future litigation, it appears that the political question doctrine or some other rule of judicial restraint will leave such disputes to the contending forces of the political branches.418

Determination Whether a Treaty Has Lapsed.

There is clear judicial recognition that the President may without consulting Congress validly determine the question whether specific treaty provisions have lapsed. The following passage from Justice Lurton’s opinion in Charlton v. Kelly419 is pertinent: “If the attitude of Italy was, as contended, a violation of the obligation of the treaty, which, in international law, would have justified the United States in denouncing the treaty as no longer obligatory, it did not automatically have that effect. If the United States elected not to declare its abrogation, or come to a rupture, the treaty would remain in force. It was only voidable, not void; and if the United States should prefer, it might waive any breach which in its judgment had occurred and conform to its own obligation as if there had been no such breach. . . . That the political branch of the government recognizes the treaty obligation as still existing is evidenced by its action in this case. . . . The executive department having thus elected to waive any right to free itself from the obligation to deliver up its own citizens, it is the plain duty of this court to recognize the obligation to surrender the appellant as one imposed by the treaty as the supreme law of the land as affording authority for the warrant of extradition.”420 So also it is primarily for the political departments to determine whether certain provisions of a treaty have survived a war in which the other contracting state ceased to exist as a member of the international community.421

Status of a Treaty a Political Question.

It is clear that many questions which arise concerning a treaty are of a political nature and will not be decided by the courts. In the words of Justice Curtis in Taylor v. Morton:422 It is not “a judicial question, whether a treaty with a foreign sovereign has been violated by him; whether the consideration of a particular stipulation in a treaty, has been voluntarily withdrawn by one party, so that it is no longer obligatory on the other; whether the views and acts of a foreign sovereign, manifested through his representative have given just occasion to the political departments of our government to withhold the execution of a promise contained in a treaty, or to act in direct contravention of such promise. . . . These powers have not been confided by the people to the judiciary, which has no suitable means to exercise them; but to the executive and the legislative departments of our government. They belong to diplomacy and legislation, and not to the administration of existing laws and it necessarily follows that if they are denied to Congress and the Executive, in the exercise of their legislative power, they can be found nowhere, in our system of government.” Chief Justice Marshall’s language in Foster v. Neilson423 is to the same effect.

Indian Treaties

In the early cases of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia,424 and Worcester v. Georgia,425 the Court, speaking by Chief Justice Marshall, held, first, that the Cherokee Nation was not a sovereign state within the meaning of that clause of the Constitution that extends the judicial power of the United States to controversies “between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign states, citizens or subjects.” Second, it held: “The Constitution, by declaring treaties already made, as well as those to be made, to be the supreme law of the land, had adopted and sanctioned the previous treaties with the Indian nations, and consequently admits their rank among those powers who are capable of making treaties. The words ‘treaty’ and ‘nation’ are words of our own language, selected in our diplomatic and legislative proceedings, by ourselves, having each a definite and well understood meaning. We have applied them to Indians, as we have applied them to the other nations of the earth. They are applied to all in the same sense.”426

Later cases established that the power to make treaties with the Indian tribes was coextensive with the power to make treaties with foreign nations,427 that the states were incompetent to interfere with rights created by such treaties,428 that as long as the United States recognized the national character of a tribe, its members were under the protection of treaties and of the laws of Congress and their property immune from taxation by a state,429 that a stipulation in an Indian treaty that laws forbidding the introduction, of liquors into Indian territory was operative without legislation, and binding on the courts although the territory was within an organized county of a state,430 and that an act of Congress contrary to a prior Indian treaty repealed it.431

Present Status of Indian Treaties.

Today, the subject of In- dian treaties is a closed account in the constitutional law ledger. By a rider inserted in the Indian Appropriation Act of March 3, 1871, it was provided “That hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty: Provided, further, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to invalidate or impair the obligation of any treaty heretofore lawfully made and ratified with any such Indian nation or tribe.”432 Subsequently, the power of Congress to withdraw or modify tribal rights previously granted by treaty has been invariably upheld.433 Statutes modifying rights of members in tribal lands,434 granting a right of way for a railroad through lands ceded by treaty to an Indian tribe,435 or extending the application of revenue laws respecting liquor and tobacco over Indian territories, despite an earlier treaty exemption,436 have been sustained.

When, on the other hand, definite property rights have been conferred upon individual Native Americans, whether by treaty or under an act of Congress, they are protected by the Constitution to the same extent and in the same way as the private rights of other residents or citizens of the United States. Hence, the Court held that certain Indian allottees, under an agreement according to which, in part consideration of their relinquishment of all their claim to tribal property, they were to receive in severalty allotments of lands that were to be nontaxable for a specified period, acquired vested rights of exemption from state taxation that were protected by the Fifth Amendment against abrogation by Congress.437

A regular staple of each Term’s docket of the Court is one or two cases calling for an interpretation of the rights of Native Americans under some treaty arrangement vis-a-vis the Federal Government or the states. Thus, though no treaties have been negotiated for decades and none presumably ever will again, litigation concerning old treaties seemingly will go on.


The capacity of the United States to enter into agreements with other nations is not exhausted in the treaty-making power. The Constitution recognizes a distinction between “treaties” and “agreements” or “compacts” but does not indicate what the difference is.438 The differences, which once may have been clearer, have been seriously blurred in practice within recent decades. Once a stepchild in the family in which treaties were the preferred offspring, the executive agreement has surpassed in number and perhaps in international influence the treaty formally signed, submitted for ratification to the Senate, and proclaimed upon ratification.

During the first half-century of its independence, the United States was party to sixty treaties but to only twenty-seven published executive agreements. By the beginning of World War II, there had been concluded approximately 800 treaties and 1,200 executive agreements. In the period 1940–1989, the Nation entered into 759 treaties and into 13,016 published executive agreements. Cumulatively, in 1989, the United States was a party to 890 treaties and 5,117 executive agreements. To phrase it comparatively, in the first 50 years of its history, the United States concluded twice as many treaties as executive agreements. In the 50-year period from 1839 to 1889, a few more executive agreements than treaties were entered into. From 1889 to 1939, almost twice as many executive agreements as treaties were concluded. Between 1939 and 1993, executive agreements comprised more than 90% of the international agreements concluded.439

One must, of course, interpret the raw figures carefully. Only a very small minority of all the executive agreements entered into were based solely on the powers of the President as Commander in Chief and organ of foreign relations; the remainder were authorized in advance by Congress by statute or by treaty provisions ratified by the Senate.440 Thus, consideration of the constitutional significance of executive agreements must begin with a differentiation among the kinds of agreements which are classed under this single heading.441

Executive Agreements by Authorization of Congress

Congress early authorized officers of the executive branch to enter into negotiations and to conclude agreements with foreign governments, authorizing the borrowing of money from foreign countries442 and appropriating money to pay off the government of Algiers to prevent pirate attacks on United States shipping.443 Perhaps the first formal authorization in advance of an executive agreement was enactment of a statute that permitted the Postmaster General to “make arrangements with the Postmasters in any foreign country for the reciprocal receipt and delivery of letters and packets, through the post offices.”444 Congress has also approved, usually by resolution, other executive agreements, such as the annexing of Texas and Hawaii and the acquisition of Samoa.445 A prolific source of executive agreements has been the authorization of reciprocal arrangements between the United States and other countries for the securing of protection for patents, copyrights, and trademarks.446

Reciprocal Trade Agreements.

The most copious source of executive agreements has been legislation which provided authority for entering into reciprocal trade agreements with other nations.447 Such agreements in the form of treaties providing for the reciprocal reduction of duties subject to implementation by Congress were frequently entered into,448 but beginning with the Tariff Act of 1890,449 Congress began to insert provisions authorizing the Executive to bargain over reciprocity with no necessity of subsequent legislative action. The authority was widened in successive acts.450 Then, in the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934,451 Congress authorized the President to enter into agreements with other nations for reductions of tariffs and other impediments to international trade and to put the reductions into effect through proclamation.452

The Constitutionality of Trade Agreements.

In Field v. Clark,453 legislation conferring authority on the President to conclude trade agreements was sustained against the objection that it attempted an unconstitutional delegation “of both legislative and treaty-making powers.” The Court met the first objection with an extensive review of similar legislation from the inauguration of government under the Constitution. The second objection it met with a curt rejection: “What has been said is equally applicable to the objection that the third section of the act invests the President with treaty-making power. The Court is of opinion that the third section of the act of October 1, 1890, is not liable to the objection that it transfers legislative and treaty-making power to the President.”454 Although two Justices disagreed, the question has never been revived. However, in B. Altman & Co. v. United States,455 decided twenty years later, a collateral question was passed upon. This was whether an act of Congress that gave the federal circuit courts of appeal jurisdiction of cases in which “the validity or construction of any treaty . . . was drawn in question” embraced a case involving a trade agreement which had been made under the sanction of the Tariff Act of 1897. The Court answered: “While it may be true that this commercial agreement, made under authority of the Tariff Act of 1897, § 3, was not a treaty possessing the dignity of one requiring ratification by the Senate of the United States, it was an international compact, negotiated between the representatives of two sovereign nations and made in the name and on behalf of the contracting countries, and dealing with important commercial relations between the two countries, and was proclaimed by the President. If not technically a treaty requiring ratification, nevertheless, it was a compact authorized by the Congress of the United States, negotiated and proclaimed under the authority of its President. We think such a compact is a treaty under the Circuit Court of Appeals Act, and, where its construction is directly involved, as it is here, there is a right of review by direct appeal to this court.”456

The Lend-Lease Act.

The most extensive delegation of author- ity ever made by Congress to the President to enter into executive agreements occurred within the field of the cognate powers of the two departments, the field of foreign relations, and took place at a time when war appeared to be in the offing and was in fact only a few months away. The legislation referred to is the Lend-Lease Act of March 11, 1941,457 by which the President was empowered for over two years—and subsequently for additional periods whenever he deemed it in the interest of the national defense to do so—to authorize “the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the head of any other department or agency of the Government,” to manufacture in the government arsenals, factories, and shipyards, or “otherwise procure,” to the extent that available funds made possible, “defense articles”—later amended to include foodstuffs and industrial products—and “sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of,” the same to the “government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States,” and on any terms that he “deems satisfactory.” Under this authorization the United States entered into Mutual Aid Agreements under which the government furnished its allies in World War II with 40 billion dollars’ worth of munitions of war and other supplies.

International Organizations.

Overlapping of the treaty- making power through congressional-executive cooperation in international agreements is also demonstrated by the use of resolutions approving the United States joining of international organizations458 and participating in international conventions.459

Executive Agreements Authorized by Treaties
Arbitration Agreements.

In 1904 and 1905, Secretary of State John Hay negotiated a series of treaties providing for the general arbitration of international disputes. Article II of the treaty with Great Britain, for example, provided as follows: “In each individual case the High Contracting Parties, before appealing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, shall conclude a special Agreement defining clearly the matter in dispute and the scope of the powers of the Arbitrators, and fixing the periods for the formation of the Arbitral Tribunal and the several stages of the procedure.”460 The Senate approved the British treaty by the constitutional majority having, however, first amended it by substituting the word “treaty” for “agreement.” President Theodore Roosevelt, characterizing the “ratification” as equivalent to rejection, sent the treaties to repose in the archives. “As a matter of historical practice,” Dr. McClure comments, “the compromise under which disputes have been arbitrated include both treaties and executive agreements in goodly numbers,”461 a statement supported by both Willoughby and Moore.462

Agreements Under the United Nations Charter.

Article 43 of the United Nations Charter provides: “1. All Members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security. 2. Such agreement or agreements shall govern the numbers and types of forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of the facilities and assistance to be provided. 3. The agreement or agreements shall be negotiated as soon as possible on the initiative of the Security Council. They shall be concluded between the Security Council and Members or between the Security Council and groups of Members and shall be subject to ratification by the signatory states in accordance with their respective constitutional processes.”463 This time the Senate did not boggle over the word “agreement.”

The United Nations Participation Act of December 20, 1945, implements these provisions as follows: “The President is authorized to negotiate a special agreement or agreements with the Security Council which shall be subject to the approval of the Congress by appropriate Act or joint resolution, providing for the numbers and types of armed forces, their degree of readiness and general location, and the nature of facilities and assistance, including rights of passage, to be made available to the Security Council on its call for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security in accordance with article 43 of said Charter. The President shall not be deemed to require the authorization of the Congress to make available to the Security Council on its call in order to take action under article 42 of said Charter and pursuant to such special agreement or agreements the armed forces, facilities, or assistance provided for therein: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as an authorization to the President by the Congress to make available to the Security Council for such purpose armed forces, facilities, or assistance in addition to the forces, facilities, and assistance provided for in such special agreement or agreements.”464

Status of Forces Agreements.

Status of Forces Agreements, negotiated pursuant to authorizations contained in treaties between the United States and foreign nations in the territory of which American troops and their dependents are stationed, afford the United States a qualified privilege, which may be waived, of trying by court martial soldiers and their dependents charged with commission of offenses normally within the exclusive criminal jurisdiction of the foreign signatory power. When the United States, in conformity with the waiver clause in such an Agreement, consented to the trial in a Japanese court of a soldier charged with causing the death of a Japanese woman on a firing range in that country, the Court could “find no constitutional barrier” to such action.465 However, at least five of the Supreme Court Justices were persuaded to reject at length the contention that such Agreements could sustain, as necessary and proper for their effectuation, implementing legislation subsequently found by the Court to contravene constitutional guaranties set forth in the Bill of Rights.466

Executive Agreements on the Sole Constitutional Authority of the President

Many types of executive agreements comprise the ordinary daily grist of the diplomatic mill. Among these are such as apply to minor territorial adjustments, boundary rectifications, the policing of boundaries, the regulation of fishing rights, private pecuniary claims against another government or its nationals, in Story’s words, “the mere private rights of sovereignty.”467 Crandall lists scores of such agreements entered into with other governments by the authorization of the President.468 Such agreements were ordinarily directed to particular and comparatively trivial disputes and by the settlement they effect of these cease ipso facto to be operative. Also, there are such time-honored diplomatic devices as the “protocol” which marks a stage in the negotiation of a treaty, and the modus vivendi, which is designed to serve as a temporary substitute for one. Executive agreements become of constitutional significance when they constitute a determinative factor of future foreign policy and hence of the country’s destiny. In consequence particularly of our participation in World War II and our immersion in the conditions of international tension which prevailed both before and after the war, Presidents have entered into agreements with other governments some of which have approximated temporary alliances. It cannot be justly said, however, that in so doing they have acted without considerable support from precedent.

An early instance of executive treaty-making was the agreement by which President Monroe in 1817 defined the limits of armaments on the Great Lakes. The arrangement was effected by an exchange of notes, which nearly a year later were laid before the Senate with a query as to whether it was within the President’s power, or whether advice and consent of the Senate was required. The Senate approved the agreement by the required two-thirds vote, and it was forthwith proclaimed by the President without there having been a formal exchange of ratifications.469 Of a kindred type, and owing much to the President’s capacity as Commander in Chief, was a series of agreements entered into with Mexico between 1882 and 1896 according each country the right to pursue marauding Indians across the common border.470 Commenting on such an agreement, the Court remarked, a bit uncertainly: “While no act of Congress authorizes the executive department to permit the introduction of foreign troops, the power to give such permission without legislative assent was probably assumed to exist from the authority of the President as commander in chief of the military and naval forces of the United States. It may be doubted, however, whether such power could be extended to the apprehension of deserters [from foreign vessels] in the absence of positive legislation to that effect.”471 Justice Gray and three other Justices believed that such action by the President must rest upon express treaty or statute.472

Notable expansion of presidential power in this field first became manifest in the administration of President McKinley. At the outset of war with Spain, the President proclaimed that the United States would consider itself bound for the duration by the last three principles of the Declaration of Paris, a course which, as Professor Wright observes, “would doubtless go far toward establishing these three principles as international law obligatory upon the United States in future wars.”473 Hostilities with Spain were brought to an end in August, 1898, by an armistice the conditions of which largely determined the succeeding treaty of peace,474 just as did the Armistice of November 11, 1918, determine in great measure the conditions of the final peace with Germany in 1918. It was also President McKinley who in 1900, relying on his own sole authority as Commander in Chief, contributed a land force of 5,000 men and a naval force to cooperate with similar contingents from other Powers to rescue the legations in Peking from the Boxers; a year later, again without consulting either Congress or the Senate, he accepted for the United States the Boxer Indemnity Protocol between China and the intervening Powers.475 Commenting on the Peking protocol, Willoughby quotes with approval the following remark: “This case is interesting, because it shows how the force of circumstances compelled us to adopt the European practice with reference to an international agreement, which, aside from the indemnity question, was almost entirely political in character . . . purely political treaties are, under constitutional practice in Europe, usually made by the executive alone. The situation in China, however, abundantly justified President McKinley in not submitting the protocol to the Senate. The remoteness of Peking, the jealousies between the allies, and the shifting evasive tactics of the Chinese Government, would have made impossible anything but an agreement on the spot.”476

It was also during this period that John Hay, as McKinley’s Secretary of State, initiated his “Open Door” policy, by notes to Great Britain, Germany, and Russia, which were soon followed by similar notes to France, Italy and Japan. These in substance asked the recipients to declare formally that they would not seek to enlarge their respective interests in China at the expense of any of the others; and all responded favorably.477 Then, in 1905, the first Roosevelt, seeking to arrive at a diplomatic understanding with Japan, instigated an exchange of opinions between Secretary of War Taft, then in the Far East, and Count Katsura, amounting to a secret treaty, by which the Roosevelt administration assented to the establishment by Japan of a military protectorate in Korea.478 Three years later, Secretary of State Root and the Japanese ambassador at Washington entered into the Root-Takahira Agreement to uphold the status quo in the Pacific and maintain the principle of equal opportunity for commerce and industry in China.479 Meantime, in 1907, by a “Gentleman’s Agreement,” the Mikado’s government had agreed to curb the emigration of Japanese subjects to the United States, thereby relieving the Washington government from the necessity of taking action that would have cost Japan loss of face. The final result of this series of executive agreements touching American relations in and with the Far East was the product of President Wilson’s diplomacy. This was the Lansing-Ishii Agreement, embodied in an exchange of letters dated November 2, 1917, by which the United States recognized Japan’s “special interests” in China, and Japan assented to the principle of the Open Door in that country.480

The Litvinov Agreement.

The executive agreement attained its modern development as an instrument of foreign policy under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at times threatening to replace the treaty-making power, not formally but in effect, as a determinative element in the field of foreign policy. The President’s first important utilization of the executive agreement device took the form of an exchange of notes on November 16, 1933, with Maxim M. Litvinov, the USSR Commissar for Foreign Affairs, whereby American recognition was extended to the Soviet Union and certain pledges made by each official.481

The Hull-Lothian Agreement.

With the fall of France in June, 1940, President Roosevelt entered into two executive agreements the total effect of which was to transform the role of the United States from one of strict neutrality toward the European war to one of semi-belligerency. The first agreement was with Canada and provided for the creation of a Permanent Joint Board on Defense which would “consider in the broad sense the defense of the north half of the Western Hemisphere.”482 Second, and more important than the first, was the Hull-Lothian Agreement of September 2, 1940, under which, in return for the lease for ninety-nine years of certain sites for naval bases in the British West Atlantic, the United States handed over to the British Government fifty over-age destroyers which had been reconditioned and recommissioned.483 And on April 9, 1941, the State Department, in consideration of the just-completed German occupation of Denmark, entered into an executive agreement with the Danish minister in Washington, whereby the United States acquired the right to occupy Greenland for purposes of defense.484

The Post-War Years.

Post-war diplomacy of the United States was greatly influenced by the executive agreements entered into at Cairo, Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam.485 For a period, the formal treaty—the signing of the United Nations Charter and the entry into the multinational defense pacts, like NATO, SEATO, CENTRO, and the like—re-established itself, but soon the executive agreement, as an adjunct of treaty arrangement or solely through presidential initiative, again became the principal instrument of United States foreign policy, so that it became apparent in the 1960s that the Nation was committed in one way or another to assisting over half the countries of the world protect themselves.486 Congressional disquietude did not result in anything more substantial than passage of a “sense of the Senate” resolution expressing a desire that “national commitments” be made more solemnly in the future than in the past.487

The Domestic Obligation of Executive Agreements

When the President enters into an executive agreement, what sort of obligation does it impose on the United States? That it may impose international obligations of potentially serious consequences is obvious and that such obligations may linger for long periods of time is equally obvious.488 Not so obvious is the nature of the domestic obligations imposed by executive agreements. Do treaties and executive agreements have the same domestic effect?489 Treaties preempt state law through operation of the Supremacy Clause. Although it may be that executive agreements entered into pursuant to congressional authorization or treaty obligation also derive preemptive force from the Supremacy Clause, that textual basis for preemption is arguably lacking for executive agreements resting solely on the President’s constitutional powers.

Initially, it was the view of most judges and scholars that executive agreements based solely on presidential power did not become the “law of the land” pursuant to the Supremacy Clause because such agreements are not “treaties” ratified by the Senate.490 The Supreme Court, however, found another basis for holding state laws to be preempted by executive agreements, ultimately relying on the Constitution’s vesting of foreign relations power in the national government.

A different view seemed to underlie the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Belmont,491 giving domestic effect to the Litvinov Assignment. The Court’s opinion by Justice Sutherland built on his Curtiss-Wright492 opinion. A lower court had erred, the Court ruled, in dismissing an action by the United States, as assignee of the Soviet Union, for certain moneys which had once been the property of a Russian metal corporation the assets of which had been appropriated by the Soviet government. The President’s act in recognizing the Soviet government, and the accompanying agreements, constituted, said the Justice, an international compact which the President, “as the sole organ” of international relations for the United States, was authorized to enter upon without consulting the Senate. Nor did state laws and policies make any difference in such a situation; while the supremacy of treaties is established by the Constitution in express terms, the same rule holds “in the case of all international compacts and agreements from the very fact that complete power over international affairs is in the National Government and is not and cannot be subject to any curtailment or interference on the part of the several States.”493

The Court elaborated on these principles five years later in United States v. Pink,494 another case involving the Litvinov Assignment and recognition of the Soviet Government. The question presented was whether the United States was entitled to recover the assets of the New York branch of a Russian insurance company. The company argued that the Soviet Government’s decrees of confiscation did not apply to its property in New York and could not apply consistently with the Constitution of the United States and that of New York. The Court, speaking by Justice Douglas, brushed these arguments aside. An official declaration of the Russian government itself settled the question of the extraterritorial operation of the Russian decree of nationalization and was binding on American courts. The power to remove such obstacles to full recognition as settlement of claims of our nationals was “a modest implied power of the President who is the ‘sole organ of the Federal Government in the field of international relations’. . . . It was the judgment of the political department that full recognition of the Soviet Government required the settlement of outstanding problems including the claims of our nationals. . . . We would usurp the executive function if we held that the decision was not final and conclusive on the courts. . . .”

“It is, of course, true that even treaties with foreign nations will be carefully construed so as not to derogate from the authority and jurisdiction of the States of this nation unless clearly necessary to effectuate the national policy. . . . But state law must yield when it is inconsistent with, or impairs the policy or provisions of, a treaty or of an international compact or agreement. . . . Then, the power of a State to refuse enforcement of rights based on foreign law which runs counter to the public policy of the forum . . . must give way before the superior Federal policy evidenced by a treaty or international compact or agreement. . . .”

“The action of New York in this case amounts in substance to a rejection of a part of the policy underlying recognition by this nation of Soviet Russia. Such power is not accorded a State in our constitutional system. To permit it would be to sanction a dangerous invasion of Federal authority. For it would ‘imperil the amicable relations between governments and vex the peace of nations.’ . . . It would tend to disturb that equilibrium in our foreign relations which the political departments of our national government has diligently endeavored to establish. . . .”

“No State can rewrite our foreign policy to conform to its own domestic policies. Power over external affairs is not shared by the States; it is vested in the national government exclusively. It need not be so exercised as to conform to state laws or state policies, whether they be expressed in constitutions, statutes, or judicial decrees. And the policies of the States become wholly irrelevant to judicial inquiry when the United States, acting within its constitutional sphere, seeks enforcement of its foreign policy in the courts.”495

This recognition of the preemptive reach of executive agreements was an element in the movement for a constitutional amendment in the 1950s to limit the President’s powers in this field, but that movement failed.496

Belmont and Pink were reinforced in American Ins. Ass’n v. Garamendi.497 In holding that California’s Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act was preempted as interfering with the Federal Government’s conduct of foreign relations, as expressed in executive agreements, the Court reiterated that “valid executive agreements are fit to preempt state law, just as treaties are.”498 The preemptive reach of executive agreements stems from “the Constitution’s allocation of the foreign relations power to the National Government.”499 Because there was a “clear conflict” between the California law and policies adopted through the valid exercise of federal executive authority (settlement of Holocaust-era insurance claims being “well within the Executive’s responsibility for foreign affairs”), the state law was preempted.500

State Laws Affecting Foreign Relations—Dormant Federal Power and Preemption

If the foreign relations power is truly an exclusive federal power, with no role for the states, a logical consequence, the Supreme Court has held, is that some state laws impinging on foreign relations are invalid even in the absence of a relevant federal policy. There is, in effect, a “dormant” foreign relations power. The scope of this power remains undefined, however, and its constitutional basis is debated by scholars.

The exclusive nature of the federal foreign relations power has long been asserted by the Supreme Court. In 1840, for example, the Court declared that “it was one of the main objects of the constitution to make us, so far as regarded our foreign relations, one people, and one nation; and to cut off all communications between foreign governments, and the several state authorities.”501 A hundred years later the Court remained emphatic about federal exclusivity. “No State can rewrite our foreign policy to conform to its own domestic policies. Power over external affairs is not shared by the States; it is vested in the national government exclusively. It need not be so exercised as to conform to state laws or state policies, whether they be expressed in constitutions, statutes, or judicial decrees. And the policies of the States become wholly irrelevant to judicial inquiry when the United States, acting within its constitutional sphere, seeks enforcement of its foreign policy in the courts.”502

It was not until 1968, however, that the Court applied the general principle to invalidate a state law for impinging on the nation’s foreign policy interests in the absence of an established federal policy. In Zschernig v. Miller503 the Court invalidated an Oregon escheat law that operated to prevent inheritance by citizens of Communist countries. The law conditioned inheritance by nonresident aliens on a showing that U.S. citizens would be allowed to inherit estates in the alien’s country, and that the alien heir would be allowed to receive payments from the Oregon estate “without confiscation.”504 Although a Justice Department amicus brief asserted that application of the Oregon law in this one case would not cause any “undu[e] interfer[ence] with the United States’ conduct of foreign relations,” the Court saw a “persistent and subtle” effect on international relations stemming from the “notorious” practice of state probate courts in denying payments to persons from Communist countries.505 Regulation of descent and distribution of estates is an area traditionally regulated by states, but such “state regulations must give way if they impair the effective exercise of the Nation’s foreign policy.” If there are to be travel, probate, or other restraints on citizens of Communist countries, the Court concluded, such restraints “must be provided by the Federal Government.”506

Zschernig lay dormant for some time, and, although it has been addressed recently by the Court, it remains the only holding in which the Court has applied a dormant foreign relations power to strike down state law. There was renewed academic interest in Zschernig in the 1990s, as some state and local governments sought ways to express dissatisfaction with human rights policies of foreign governments or to curtail trade with out-of-favor countries.507 In 1999, the Court struck down Massachusetts’ Burma sanctions law on the basis of statutory preemption, and declined to address the appeals court’s alternative holding applying Zschernig.508 Similarly, in 2003, the Court held that California’s Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act was pre-empted as interfering with federal foreign policy reflected in executive agreements, and, although the Court discussed Zschernig at some length, it saw no need to resolve issues relating to its scope.509

Dictum in Garamendi recognizes some of the questions that can be raised about Zschernig. The Zschernig Court did not identify what language in the Constitution mandates preemption, and commentators have observed that a respectable argument can be made that the Constitution does not require a general foreign affairs preemption not tied to the Supremacy Clause, and broader than and independent of the Constitution’s specific prohibitions510 and grants of power.511 The Garamendi Court raised “a fair question whether respect for the executive foreign relations power requires a categorical choice between the contrasting theories of field and conflict pre-emption evident in the Zschernig opinions.” Instead, Justice Souter suggested for the Court, field preemption may be appropriate if a state legislates “simply to take a position on a matter of foreign policy with no serious claim to be addressing a traditional state responsibility,” and conflict preemption may be appropriate if a state legislates within an area of traditional responsibility, “but in a way that affects foreign relations.”512 We must await further litigation to see whether the Court employs this distinction.513


“An office is a public station, or employment, conferred by the appointment of government. The term embraces the ideas of tenure, duration, emolument, and duties.”514

Ambassadors and Other Public Ministers.

The term “am- bassadors and other public ministers,” comprehends “all officers having diplomatic functions, whatever their title or designation.”515 It was originally assumed that such offices were established by the Constitution itself, by reference to the Law of Nations, with the consequence that appointments might be made to them whenever the appointing authority—the President and Senate—deemed desirable.516 During the first sixty-five years of the Government, Congress passed no act purporting to create any diplomatic rank, the entire question of grades being left with the President. Indeed, during the administrations of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, and the first term of Madison, no mention occurs in any appropriation, even of ministers of a specified rank at this or that place, but the provision for the diplomatic corps consisted of so much money “for the expenses of foreign intercourse,” to be expended at the discretion of the President. In Madison’s second term, the practice was introduced of allocating special sums to the several foreign missions maintained by the Government, but even then the legislative provisions did not purport to curtail the discretion of the President in any way in the choice of diplomatic agents.

In 1814, however, when President Madison appointed, during a recess of the Senate, the Commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Ghent, the theory on which the above legislation was based was drawn into question. Inasmuch, it was argued, as these offices had never been established by law, no vacancy existed to which the President could constitutionally make a recess appointment. To this argument, it was answered that the Constitution recognizes “two descriptions of offices altogether different in their nature, authorized by the constitution—one to be created by law, and the other depending for their existence and continuance upon contingencies. Of the first kind, are judicial, revenue, and similar offices. Of the second, are Ambassadors, other public Ministers, and Consuls. The first descriptions organize the government and give it efficacy. They form the internal system, and are susceptible of precise enumeration. When and how they are created, and when and how they become vacant, may always be ascertained with perfect precision. Not so with the second description. They depend for their original existence upon the law, but are the offspring of the state of our relations with foreign nations, and must necessarily be governed by distinct rules. As an independent power, the United States have relations with all other independent powers; and the management of those relations is vested in the Executive.”517

By the opening section of the act of March 1, 1855, it was provided that “from and after the thirtieth day of June next, the President of the United States shall, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint representatives of the grade of envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary,” with a specified annual compensation for each, “to the following countries. . . .” In the body of the act was also this provision: “The President shall appoint no other than citizens of the United States, who are residents thereof, or who shall be abroad in the employment of the government at the time of their appointment. . . .”518 The question of the interpretation of the act having been referred to Attorney General Cushing, he ruled that its total effect, aside from its salary provisions, was recommendatory only. It was “to say, that if, and whenever, the President shall, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain, or to Sweden, the compensation of that minister shall be so much and no more.”519

This line of reasoning is only partially descriptive of the facts. The Foreign Service Act of 1946,520 pertaining to the organization of the foreign service, diplomatic as well as consular, contains detailed provisions as to grades, salaries, promotions, and, in part, as to duties. Under the terms thereof the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints ambassadors, ministers, foreign service officers, and consuls, but in practice the vast proportion of the selections are made in conformance to recommendations of a Board of the Foreign Service.

Presidential Diplomatic Agents.

What the President may have lost in consequence of the intervention of Congress in this field of diplomatic appointments, he has made good through his early conceded right to employ, in the discharge of his diplomatic function, so-called “special,” “personal,” or “secret” agents without consulting the Senate. When President Jackson’s right to resort to this practice was challenged in the Senate in 1831, it was defended by Edward Livingston, Senator from Louisiana, to such good purpose that Jackson made him Secretary of State. “The practice of appointing secret agents,” said Livingston, “is coeval with our existence as a nation, and goes beyond our acknowledgment as such by other powers. All those great men who have figured in the history of our diplomacy, began their career, and performed some of their most important services in the capacity of secret agents, with full powers. Franklin, Adams, Lee, were only commissioners; and in negotiating a treaty with the Emperor of Morocco, the selection of the secret agent was left to the Ministers appointed to make the treaty; and, accordingly, in the year 1785, Mr. Adams and Mr. Jefferson appointed Thomas Barclay, who went to Morocco and made a treaty, which was ratified by the Ministers at Paris.”

“These instances show that, even prior to the establishment of the Federal Government, secret plenipotentiaries were known, as well in the practice of our own country as in the general law of nations: and that these secret agents were not on a level with messengers, letter carriers, or spies, to whom it has been found necessary in argument to assimilate them. On the 30th March, 1795, in the recess of the Senate, by letters patent under the great broad seal of the United States, and the signature of their President, (that President being George Washington,) countersigned by the Secretary of State, David Humphreys was appointed commissioner plenipotentiary for negotiating a treaty of peace with Algiers. By instructions from the President, he was afterwards authorized to employ Joseph Donaldson as agent in that business. In May, of the same year, he did appoint Donaldson, who went to Algiers, and in September of the same year concluded a treaty with the Dey and Divan, which was confirmed by Humphreys, at Lisbon, on the 28th November in the same year, and afterwards ratified by the Senate, and an act passed both Houses on 6th May, 1796, appropriating a large sum, twenty-five thousand dollars annually, for carrying it into effect.”521

The precedent afforded by Humphreys’ appointment without reference to the Senate has since been multiplied many times,522 as witness the mission of A. Dudley Mann to Hanover and other German states in 1846, of the same gentleman to Hungary in 1849, of Nicholas Trist to Mexico in 1848, of Commodore Perry to Japan in 1852, of J. H. Blount to Hawaii in 1893. The last named case is perhaps the most extreme of all. Blount, who was appointed while the Senate was in session but without its advice and consent, was given “paramount authority” over the American resident minister at Hawaii and was further empowered to employ the military and naval forces of the United States, if necessary to protect American lives and interests. His mission raised a vigorous storm of protest in the Senate, but the majority report of the committee which was created to investigate the constitutional question vindicated the President in the following terms: “A question has been made as to the right of the President of the United States to dispatch Mr. Blount to Hawaii as his personal representative for the purpose of seeking the further information which the President believed was necessary in order to arrive at a just conclusion regarding the state of affairs in Hawaii. Many precedents could be quoted to show that such power has been exercised by the President on various occasions, without dissent on the part of Congress or the people of the United States. . . . These precedents also show that the Senate of the United States, though in session, need not be consulted as to the appointment of such agents, . . . .”523 The continued vitality of the practice is attested by such names as Colonel House, the late Norman H. Davis, who filled the role of “ambassador at large” for a succession of administrations of both parties, Professor Philip Jessup, Mr. Averell Harriman, and other “ambassadors at large” of the Truman Administration, and Professor Henry Kissinger of the Nixon Administration.

How is the practice to be squared with the express words of the Constitution? Apparently, by stressing the fact that such appointments or designations are ordinarily merely temporary and for special tasks, and hence do not fulfill the tests of “office” in the strict sense. In the same way the not infrequent practice of Presidents of appointing Members of Congress as commissioners to negotiate treaties and agreements with foreign governments may be regularized, notwithstanding the provision of Article I, § 6, clause 2 of the Constitution, which provides that “no Senator or Representative shall . . . be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created,” during his term; and no officer of the United States, “shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.”524 The Treaty of Peace with Spain, the treaty to settle the Bering Sea controversy, the treaty establishing the boundary line between Canada and Alaska, were negotiated by commissions containing Senators and Representatives.

Appointments and Congressional Regulation of Offices

It has never been questioned that the Constitution distinguishes between the creation of an office and appointment thereto. The former is by law and takes place by virtue of Congress’s power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers which the Constitution confers upon the government of the United States and its departments and officers.525 As an incident to the establishment of an office, Congress has also the power to determine the qualifications of the officer and in so doing necessarily limits the range of choice of the appointing power. First and last, it has laid down a great variety of qualifications, depending on citizenship, residence, professional attainments, occupational experience, age, race, property, sound habits, and so on. It has required that appointees be representative of a political party, of an industry, of a geographic region, or of a particular branch of the Government. It has confined the President’s selection to a small number of persons to be named by others.526 Indeed, it has contrived at times to designate a definite eligibility, thereby virtually usurping the appointing power.527 Despite the record of the past, however, it is not at all clear that Congress may cabin the President’s discretion, at least for offices that he considers important, by, for example, requiring him to choose from lists compiled by others. To be sure, there are examples, but they are not free of ambiguity.528

But when Congress contrived actually to participate in the appointment and administrative process and provided for selection of the members of the Federal Election Commission, two by the President, two by the Senate, and two by the House, with confirmation of all six members vested in both the House and the Senate, the Court unanimously held the scheme to violate the Appointments Clause and the principle of separation of powers. The term “officers of the United States” is a substantive one requiring that any appointee exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States be appointed in the manner prescribed by the Appointments Clause.529 The Court did hold, however, that the Commission so appointed and confirmed could be delegated the powers Congress itself could exercise, that is, those investigative and informative functions that congressional committees carry out were properly vested in this body.

Congress is authorized by the Appointments Clause to vest the appointment of “inferior Officers,” at its discretion, “in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.” The principal questions arising under this portion of the clause are “Who are ‘inferior officers,’ ” and “what are the ‘Departments’ ” whose heads may be given appointing power?530 “[A]ny appointee exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States is an ‘Officer of the United States,’ and must, therefore, be appointed in the manner prescribed by § 2, cl. 2, of [Article II].”531 “The Constitution for purposes of appointment very clearly divides all its officers into two classes. The primary class requires a nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate. But foreseeing that when offices became numerous, and sudden removals necessary, this mode might be inconvenient, it was provided that, in regard to officers inferior to those specially mentioned, Congress might by law vest their appointment in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments. That all persons who can be said to hold an office under the government about to be established under the Constitution were intended to be included within one or the other of these modes of appointment there can be but little doubt.”532

In Edmond v. United States,533 the Court reviewed its pronouncements regarding the definition of “inferior officer” and, disregarding some implications of its prior decisions, seemingly settled, unanimously, on a pragmatic characterization. Thus, the importance of the responsibilities assigned an officer, the fact that duties were limited, that jurisdiction was narrow, and that tenure was limited, are only factors but are not definitive.534 “Generally speaking, the term ‘inferior officer’ connotes a relationship with some higher ranking officer or officers below the President: Whether one is an ‘inferior’ officer depends on whether he has a superior. It is not enough that other officers may be identified who formally maintain a higher rank, or possess responsibilities of a greater magnitude. If that were the intention, the Constitution might have used the phrase ‘lesser officer.’ Rather, in the context of a Clause designed to preserve political accountability relative to important Government assignments, we think it evident that ‘inferior officers’ are officers whose work is directed and supervised at some level by others who were appointed by Presidential nomination with the advice and consent of the Senate.”535

Thus, officers who are not “inferior Officers” are principal officers who must be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate in order to make sure that all the business of the Executive will be conducted under the supervision of officers appointed by the President with Senate approval.536 Further, the Framers intended to limit the “diffusion” of the appointing power with respect to inferior officers in order to promote accountability. “The Framers understood . . . that by limiting the appointment power, they could ensure that those who wielded it were accountable to political force and the will of the people. . . . The Appointments Clause prevents Congress from distributing power too widely by limiting the actors in whom Congress may vest the power to appoint. The Clause reflects our Framers’ conclusion that widely distributed appointment power subverts democratic government. Given the inexorable presence of the administrative state, a holding that every organ in the executive Branch is a department would multiply the number of actors eligible to appoint.”537

Yet, even agreed on the principle, the Freytag Court split 5-to-4 on the reason for the permissibility of the Chief Judge of the Tax Court to appoint special trial judges. The entire Court agreed that the Tax Court had to be either a “department” or a “court of law” in order for the authority to be exercised by the Chief Judge, and it unanimously agreed that the statutory provision was constitutional. But there agreement ended. The majority was of the opinion that the Tax Court could not be a department, but it was unclear what those Justices thought a department comprehended. Seemingly, it started from the premise that departments were those parts of the executive establishment called departments and headed by a cabinet officer.538 Yet, the Court continued immediately to say: “Confining the term ‘Heads of Departments’ in the Appointments Clause to executive divisions like the Cabinet-level departments constrains the distribution of the appointment power just as the [IRS] Commissioner’s interpretation, in contrast, would diffuse it. The Cabinet-level departments are limited in number and easily identified. The heads are subject to the exercise of political oversight and share the President’s accountability to the people.”539 The use of the word “like” in this passage suggests that it is not just Cabinet-headed departments that are departments but also entities that are similar to them in some way, and its reservation of the validity of investing appointing power in the heads of some unnamed entities, as well as its observation that the term “Heads of Departments” does not embrace “inferior commissioners and bureau officers” all contribute to an amorphous conception of the term.540 In the end, the Court sustained the challenged provision by holding that the Tax Court as an Article I court was a “Court of Law” within the meaning of the Appointments Clause.541 The other four Justices concluded that the Tax Court, as an independent establishment in the executive branch, was a “department” for purposes of the Appointments Clause. In their view, in the context of text and practice, the term meant, not Cabinet-level departments, but “all independent executive establishments,” so that “ ‘Heads of Departments’ includes the heads of all agencies immediately below the President in the organizational structure of the Executive Branch.”542

The Freytag decision must be considered a tentative rather than a settled construction.543

As noted, the Appointments Clause also authorizes Congress to vest the power in “Courts of Law.” Must the power to appoint when lodged in courts be limited to those officers acting in the judicial branch, as the Court first suggested?544 No, the Court said subsequently. In Ex parte Siebold,545 the Court sustained Congress’s decision to vest in courts the appointment of federal election supervisors, charged with preventing fraud and rights violations in congressional elections in the South, and disavowed any thought that interbranch appointments could not be authorized under the clause. A special judicial division was authorized to appoint independent counsels to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute charges of corruption in the executive, and the Court, in near unanimity, sustained the law, denying that interbranch appointments, in and of themselves, and leaving aside more precise separation-of-powers claims, were improper under the clause.546

Congressional Regulation of Conduct in Office.

Congress has very broad powers in regulating the conduct in office of officers and employees of the United States, and this authority extends to regulation of political activities. By an act passed in 1876, it prohibited “all executive officers or employees of the United States not appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, . . . from requesting, giving to, or receiving from, any other officer or employee of the Government, any money or property or other thing of value for political purposes.”547 The validity of this measure having been sustained,548 the substance of it, with some elaborations, was incorporated in the Civil Service Act of 1883.549 The Lloyd-La Follette Act in 1912 began the process of protecting civil servants from unwarranted or abusive removal by codifying “just cause” standards previously embodied in presidential orders, defining “just causes” as those that would promote the “efficiency of the service.”550 Substantial changes in the civil service system were instituted by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which abolished the Civil Service Commission and delegated its responsibilities, its management, and its administrative duties to the Office of Personnel Management and its review and protective functions to the Merit Systems Protection Board.551

Until 1993, § 9(a) of the Hatch Act552 prohibited any person in the executive branch, or any executive branch department or agency, except the President and the Vice President and certain “policy determining” officers, to “take an active part in political management or political campaigns,” although employees had been permitted to “express their opinions on all political subjects and candidates.” In United Public Workers v. Mitchell,553 these provisions were upheld as “reasonable” against objections based on the First, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. The Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993, however, substantially liberalized the rules for political activities during off-duty hours for most executive branch employees, subject to certain limitations on off-duty hours activities and express prohibitions against on-the-job partisan political activities.554

The Loyalty Issue.

By section 9A of the Hatch Act of 1939, a federal employee was disqualified from accepting or holding any position in the Federal Government or the District of Columbia if he belonged to an organization that he knew advocated the overthrow of our constitutional form of government.555 The 79th Congress followed up this provision with a rider to its appropriation acts forbidding the use of any appropriated funds to pay the salary of any person who advocated, or belonged to an organization which advocated the overthrow of the government by force, or of any person who engaged in a strike or who belonged to an organization which asserted the right to strike against the government.556 These provisos ultimately wound up in permanent law requiring all government employees to take oaths disclaiming either disloyalty or strikes as a device for dealing with the government as an employer.557 Along with the loyalty-security programs initiated by President Truman558 and carried forward by President Eisenhower,559 these measures reflected the Cold War era and the fear of subversion and espionage following the disclosures of several such instances here and abroad.560

Financial Disclosure and Limitations.

The Ethics in Gov- ernment Act of 1978561 requires high-level federal personnel to make detailed, annual disclosures of their personal financial affairs.562 The aims of the legislation are to enhance public confidence in government, to demonstrate the high level of integrity of government employees, to deter and detect conflicts of interest, to discourage individuals with questionable sources of income from entering government, and to facilitate public appraisal of government employees’ performance in light of their personal financial interests.563 Despite assertions that employee privacy interests are needlessly invaded by the breadth of disclosures, to date judicial challenges have been unsuccessful, with one exception.564 The one provision that was invalidated was section 501(b),565 which prohibits Members of Congress and officers or employees of the government, regardless of salary level, from receiving any “honorarium,” which the statute defines as “a payment of money or any thing of value for an appearance, speech or article (including a series of appearances, speeches, or articles if the subject matter is directly related to the individual’s official duties or the payment is made because of the individual’s status with the Government) . . . .”566 The Supreme Court held that this prohibition, even interpreted in accordance with the standards applicable to speech restrictions on government employees, was over-broad, as “[t]he speculative benefits the honoraria ban may provide the government are not sufficient to justify this crudely crafted burden of respondents’ freedom to engage in expressive activities.”567

Legislation Increasing Duties of an Officer.

Finally, “Con- gress may increase the powers and duties of an existing office without thereby rendering it necessary that the incumbent should be again nominated and appointed.”568 Such legislation does not constitute an attempt by Congress to seize the appointing power.

Stages of Appointment Process

The Constitution appears to distinguish three stages in appointments by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The first is the “nomination” of the candidate by the President alone; the second is the assent of the Senate to the candidate’s “appointment;” and the third is the final appointment and commissioning of the appointee, by the President.569

Senate Approval.

The fact that the power of nomination be- longs to the President alone prevents the Senate from attaching conditions to its approval of an appointment, such as it may do to its approval of a treaty. In the words of an early opinion of the Attorney General: “The Senate cannot originate an appointment. Its constitutional action is confined to the simple affirmation or rejection of the President’s nominations, and such nominations fail whenever it rejects them. The Senate may suggest conditions and limitations to the President, but it cannot vary those submitted by him, for no appointment can be made except on his nomination, agreed to without qualifications or alteration.”570 This view is borne out by early opinion,571 as well as by the record of practice under the Constitution.

When Senate Consent Is Complete.

Early in January, 1931, the Senate requested President Hoover to return its resolution notifying him that it advised and consented to certain nominations to the Federal Power Commission. In support of its action the Senate invoked a long-standing rule permitting a motion to reconsider a resolution confirming a nomination within “the next two days of actual executive session of the Senate” and the recall of the notification to the President of the confirmation. The nominees involved having meantime taken the oath of office and entered upon the discharge of their duties, the President responded with a refusal, saying: “I cannot admit the power in the Senate to encroach upon the executive functions by removal of a duly appointed executive officer under the guise of reconsideration of his nomination.” The Senate thereupon voted to reconsider the nominations in question, again approving two of the nominees, but rejecting the third, against whom it instructed the District Attorney of the District of Columbia to institute quo warranto proceedings in the Supreme Court of the District. In United States v. Smith,572 the Supreme Court overruled the proceedings on the ground that the Senate had never before attempted to apply its rule in the case of an appointee who had already been installed in office on the faith of the Senate’s initial consent and notification to the President. In 1939, President Roosevelt rejected a similar demand by the Senate, an action that went unchallenged.573

The Removal Power
The Myers Case.

Save for the provision which it makes for a power of impeachment of “civil officers of the United States,” the Constitution contains no reference to a power to remove from office, and until its decision in Myers v. United States,574 on October 25, 1926, the Supreme Court had contrived to sidestep every occasion for a decisive pronouncement regarding the removal power, its extent, and location. The point immediately at issue in the Myers case was the effectiveness of an order of the Postmaster General, acting by direction of the President, to remove from office a first-class postmaster, in the face of the following provision of an act of Congress passed in 1876: “Postmasters of the first, second, and third classes shall be appointed and may be removed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and shall hold their offices for four years unless sooner removed or suspended according to law.”575

A divided Court, speaking through Chief Justice Taft, held the order of removal valid and the statutory provision just quoted void. The Chief Justice’s relied mainly on the so-called “decision of 1789,” which referred to Congress’s that year inserting in the act establishing the Department of State a proviso that was meant to imply recognition that the Secretary would be removable by the President at will. The proviso was especially urged by Madison, who invoked in support of it the opening words of Article II and the President’s duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Succeeding passages of the Chief Justice’s opinion erected on this basis a highly selective account of doctrine and practice regarding the removal power down to the Civil War, which was held to yield the following results: “Article II grants to the President the executive power of the Government, i.e., the general administrative control of those executing the laws, including the power of appointment and removal of executive officers—a conclusion confirmed by his obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed; that Article II excludes the exercise of legislative power by Congress to provide for appointments and removals, except only as granted therein to Congress in the matter of inferior offices; that Congress is only given power to provide for appointments and removals of inferior officers after it has vested, and on condition that it does vest, their appointment in other authority than the President with the Senate’s consent; that the provisions of the second section of Article II, which blend action by the legislative branch, or by part of it, in the work of the executive, are limitations to be strictly construed and not to be extended by implication; that the President’s power of removal is further established as an incident to his specifically enumerated function of appointment by and with the advice of the Senate, but that such incident does not by implication extend to removals the Senate’s power of checking appointments; and finally that to hold otherwise would make it impossible for the President, in case of political or other differences with the Senate or Congress, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”576

The holding in Myers boils down to the proposition that the Constitution endows the President with an illimitable power to remove all officers in whose appointment he has participated, with the exception of federal judges. The motivation of the holding was not, it may be assumed, any ambition on the Chief Justice’s part to set history aright—or awry.577 Rather, it was the concern that he voiced in the following passage in his opinion: “There is nothing in the Constitution which permits a distinction between the removal of the head of a department or a bureau, when he discharges a political duty of the President or exercises his discretion, and the removal of executive officers engaged in the discharge of their other normal duties. The imperative reasons requiring an unrestricted power to remove the most important of his subordinates in their most important duties must, therefore, control the interpretation of the Constitution as to all appointed by him.”578

Thus spoke the former President Taft, and the result of his prepossession was a rule that, as was immediately pointed out, exposed the so-called “independent agencies”—the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the like—to presidential domination. Unfortunately, the Chief Justice, while professing to follow Madison’s leadership, had omitted to weigh properly the very important observation that the latter had made at the time regarding the office of Comptroller of the Treasury. “The Committee,” said Madison, “has gone through the bill without making any provision respecting the tenure by which the comptroller is to hold his office. I think it is a point worthy of consideration, and shall, therefore, submit a few observations upon it. It will be necessary to consider the nature of this office, to enable us to come to a right decision on the subject; in analyzing its properties, we shall easily discover they are of a judiciary quality as well as the executive; perhaps the latter obtains in the greatest degree. The principal duty seems to be deciding upon the lawfulness and justice of the claims and accounts subsisting between the United States and particular citizens: this partakes strongly of the judicial character, and there may be strong reasons why an officer of this kind should not hold his office at the pleasure of the executive branch of the government.”579 In Humphrey’s Executor v. United States,580 the Court seized upon “the nature of the office” concept and applied it as a corrective to the overbroad Myers holding.

The Humphrey Case.

The material element of Humphrey’s Executor was that Humphrey, a member of the Federal Trade Commission, was on October 7, 1933, notified by President Roosevelt that he was “removed” from office, the reason being their divergent views of public policy. In due course, Humphrey sued for salary. Distinguishing the Myers case, Justice Sutherland, speaking for the unanimous Court, said: “A postmaster is an executive officer restricted to the performance of executive functions. He is charged with no duty at all related to either the legislative or judicial power. The actual decision in the Myers case finds support in the theory that such an office 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 aide he is. . . . It goes no farther; much less does it include an officer who occupies no place in the executive department and who exercises no part of the executive power vested by the Constitution in the President.”

“The Federal Trade Commission is an administrative body created by Congress to carry into effect legislative policies embodied in the statute. . . . Such a body cannot in any proper sense be characterized as an arm or eye of the executive. Its duties are performed without executive leave and, in the contemplation of the statute, must be free from executive control. . . . We think it plain under the Constitution that illimitable power of removal is not possessed by the President in respect of officers of the character of those just named, [the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Court of Claims]. The authority of Congress, in creating quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial agencies, to require them to act in discharge of their duties independently of executive control cannot well be doubted; and that authority includes, as an appropriate incident, power to fix the period during which they shall continue in office, and to forbid their removal except for cause in the meantime. For it is quite evident that 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 result of what we now have said is this: Whether the power of the President to remove an officer shall prevail over the authority of Congress to condition the power by fixing a definite term and precluding a removal except for cause, will depend upon the character of the office; the Myers decision, affirming the power of the President alone to make the removal, is confined to purely executive officers; and as to officers of the kind here under consideration, we hold that no removal can be made during the prescribed term for which the officer is appointed, except for one or more of the causes named in the applicable statute.”581

The Wiener Case.

Curtailment of the President’s power of re- moval, so liberally delineated in the Myers decision, was not to end with the Humphrey case. Unresolved by the latter was the question whether the President, absent a provision expressly delimiting his authority in the statute creating an agency endowed with quasi-judicial functions, remained competent to remove members serving thereon. To this query the Court supplied a negative answer in Wiener v. United States.582 Emphasizing that the duties of the War Claims Commission were wholly adjudicatory and its determinations, final and exempt from review by any other official or judicial body, the Court unanimously concluded that inasmuch as the President was unable to supervise its activities, he lacked the power, independently of statutory authorization, to remove a commissioner whose term expired with the life of that agency.

The Watergate Controversy.

A dispute arose regarding the discharge of the Special Prosecutor appointed to investigate and prosecute violations of law in the Watergate matter. Congress vested in the Attorney General the power to conduct the criminal litigation of the Federal Government,583 and it further authorized him to appoint subordinate officers to assist him in the discharge of his duties.584 Pursuant to presidential direction, the Attorney General designated a Watergate Special Prosecutor with broad power to investigate and prosecute offenses arising out of the Watergate break-in, the 1972 presidential election, and allegations involving the President, members of the White House staff, or presidential appointees. He was to remain in office until a date mutually agreed upon between the Attorney General and himself, and the regulations provided that the Special Prosecutor “will not be removed from his duties except for extraordinary improprieties on his part.”585 On October 20, following the resignations of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, the Solicitor General as Acting Attorney General formally dismissed the Special Prosecutor586 and three days later rescinded the regulation establishing the office.587 In subsequent litigation, a federal district court held that the firing by the Acting Attorney General had violated the regulations, which were in force at the time and which had to be followed until they were rescinded.588 The Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon589 seemed to confirm this analysis by the district court in upholding the authority of the new Special Prosecutor to take the President to court to obtain evidence in the President’s possession. Left unsettled were two questions, the power of the President himself to go over the heads of his subordinates and to fire the Special Prosecutor himself, whatever the regulations said, and the power of Congress to enact legislation establishing an Office of Special Prosecutor free from direction and control of the President.590 When Congress acted to create an office, first called the Special Prosecutor and then the Independent Counsel, resolution of the question became necessary.

The Removal Power Rationalized.

The tension that had long been noticed between Myers and Humphrey’s Executor, at least in terms of the language used in those cases but also to some extent in their holdings, appears to have been ameliorated by two decisions, which purport to reconcile the cases but, more important, purport to establish, in the latter case, a mode of analysis for resolving separation-of-powers disputes respecting the removal of persons appointed under the Appointments Clause.591 Myers actually struck down only a law involving the Senate in the removal of postmasters, but the broad-ranging opinion had long stood for the proposition that inherent in the President’s obligation to see to the faithful execution of the laws was his right to remove any executive officer as a means of discipline. Humphrey’s Executor had qualified this proposition by upholding “for cause” removal restrictions for members of independent regulatory agencies, at least in part on the assertion that they exercised “quasi-” legislative and adjudicative functions as well as some form of executive function. Maintaining the holding of the latter case was essential to retaining the independent agencies, but the emphasis upon the execution of the laws as a core executive function in recent cases had cast considerable doubt on the continuing validity of Humphrey’s Executor.

In Bowsher v. Synar,592 the Court held that when Congress itself retains the power to remove an official it could not vest him with the exercise of executive power. Invalidated in Synar were provisions of the 1985 “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings” Deficit Control Act593 vesting in the Comptroller General authority to prepare a detailed report on projected federal revenue and expenditures and to determine mandatory across-the-board cuts in federal expenditures necessary to reduce the projected budget deficit by statutory targets. By a 1921 statute, the Comptroller General was removable by joint congressional resolution for, inter alia, “inefficiency,” “neglect of duty,” or “malfeasance.” “These terms are very broad,” the Court noted, and “could sustain removal of a Comptroller General for any number of actual or perceived transgressions of the legislative will.” Consequently, the Court determined, “the removal powers over the Comptroller General’s office dictate that he will be subservient to Congress.”594

Relying expressly upon Myers, the Court concluded that “Congress cannot reserve for itself the power of removal of an officer charged with the execution of the laws except by impeachment.”595 But Humphrey’s Executor was also cited with approval, and to the contention that invalidation of this law would cast doubt on the status of the independent agencies the Court rejoined that the statutory measure of the independence of those agencies was the assurance of “for cause” removal by the President rather than congressional involvement as in the instance of the Comptroller General.596 This reconciliation of Myers and Humphrey’s Executor was made clear and express in Morrison v. Olson.597

That case sustained the independent counsel statute.598 Under that law, the independent counsel, appointed by a special court upon application by the Attorney General, may be removed by the Attorney General “only for good cause, physical disability, mental incapacity, or any other condition that substantially impairs the performance of such independent counsel’s duties.” Because the counsel was clearly exercising “purely” executive duties, in the sense that term was used in Myers, it was urged that Myers governed and required the invalidation of the statute. The Court, however, said that Myers stood only for the proposition that Congress could not involve itself in the removal of executive officers. Its broad dicta that the President must be able to remove at will officers performing “purely” executive functions had not survived Humphrey’s Executor.

It was true, the Court admitted, that, in the latter case, it had distinguished between “purely” executive officers and officers who exercise “quasi-legislative” and “quasi-judicial” powers in marking the line between officials who may be presidentially removed at will and officials who can be protected through some form of good cause removal limits. “[B]ut our present considered view is that the determination of whether the Constitution allows Congress to impose a ‘good cause’-type restriction on the President’s power to remove an official cannot be made to turn on whether or not that official is classified as ‘purely executive.’ 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 to ensure that Congress does not interfere with the President’s exercise of the ‘executive power’ and his constitutionally appointed duty to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ under Article II. Myers was undoubtedly correct in its holding, and in its broader suggestion that there are some ‘purely executive’ officials who must be removable by the President at will if he is to be able to accomplish his constitutional role. . . . At the other end of the spectrum from Myers, the characterization of the agencies in Humphrey’s Executor and Wiener as ‘quasi-legislative’ or ‘quasi-judicial’ in large part reflected our judgment that it was not essential to the President’s proper execution of his Article II powers that these agencies be headed up by individuals who were removable at will. We do not mean to suggest that an analysis of the functions served by the officials at issue is irrelevant. But the 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.”599

The Court discerned no compelling reason to find the good cause limit to interfere with the President’s performance of his duties. The independent counsel did exercise executive, law-enforcement functions, but the jurisdiction and tenure of each counsel were limited in scope and policymaking, or significant administrative authority was lacking. On the other hand, the removal authority did afford the President through the Attorney General power to ensure the “faithful execution” of the laws by assuring that the counsel is competently performing the statutory duties of the office.

It is now thus reaffirmed that Congress may not involve itself in the removal of officials performing executive functions. It is also established that, in creating offices in the executive branch and in creating independent agencies, Congress has considerable discretion in statutorily limiting the power to remove of the President or another appointing authority. It is evident on the face of the opinion that the discretion is not unbounded, that there are offices which may be essential to the President’s performance of his constitutionally assigned powers and duties, so that limits on removal would be impermissible. There are no bright lines marking off one office from the other, but decision requires close analysis.600

As a result of these cases, the long-running controversy with respect to the legitimacy of the independent agencies appears to have been settled,601 although it appears likely that the controversies with respect to congressional-presidential assertions of power in executive agency matters are only beginning.

Inferior Officers.

In the case of inferior officers, Congress may “limit and restrict the power of removal as it deems best for the public interest,”602 and when Congress has vested the power to appoint these officers in heads of departments, it is ordinarily the department head, rather than the President, who enjoys the power of removal. However, in the case of Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Bd.,603 the Court considered whether an inferior officer can be twice insulated from the President’s removal authority—in other words, can a principal officer whom Congress has protected from at will removal by the President in turn have his or her power to remove an inferior officer restricted?604 The Court held that such multilevel protection from removal is contrary to the President’s executive authority. First, even if the President determines that the inferior officer is neglecting his duties or discharging them improperly, the President does not have the power to remove that officer. Then, if the President seeks to have the principal officer remove the inferior officer, the principal officer may not agree with the President’s determination, and the President generally cannot remove the principal officer simply because of this disagreement.605

In the absence of specific legislative provision to the contrary, the President may at his discretion remove an inferior officer whose term is limited by statute,606 or one appointed with the consent of the Senate.607 He may remove an officer of the army or navy at any time by nominating to the Senate the officer’s successor, provided the Senate approves the nomination.608 In 1940, the President was sustained in removing Dr. E. A. Morgan from the chairmanship of TVA for refusal to produce evidence in substantiation of charges which he had leveled at his fellow directors.609 Although no such cause of removal by the President was stated in the act creating TVA, the President’s action, being reasonably required to promote the smooth functioning of TVA, was held to be within his duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” So interpreted, the removal did not violate the principle of administrative independence.

The Presidential Aegis: Demands for Papers

Presidents have more than once had occasion to stand in a protective relation to their subordinates, assuming their defense in litigation brought against them610 or pressing litigation in their behalf,611 refusing a congressional call for papers which might be used, in their absence from the seat of government, to their disadvantage,612 challenging the constitutional validity of legislation deemed detrimental to their interests.613 Presidents throughout our history have attempted to spread their own official immunity to their subordinates by resisting actions of the courts or of congressional committees to require subordinates to divulge communications from or to the President that Presidents choose to regard as confidential. Only recently, however, has the focus of the controversy shifted from protection of presidential or executive interests to protection of the President himself, and the locus of the dispute shifted to the courts.

Following years in which claims of executive privilege were resolved in primarily interbranch disputes on the basis of the political strengths of the parties, the issue finally became subject to judicial elaboration. The doctrine of executive privilege was at once recognized as existing and having a constitutional foundation while at the same time it was definitely bounded in its assertion by the principle of judicial review. Because of these cases, because of the intensified congressional-presidential dispute, and especially because of the introduction of the issue into an impeachment proceeding, a somewhat lengthy treatment of the doctrine is called for.

Conceptually, the doctrine of executive privilege may well reflect different considerations in different factual situations. Congress may seek information within the possession of the President, either in effectuation of its investigatory powers to oversee the conduct of officials of the Executive Branch or in effectuation of its power to impeach the President, Vice President, or civil officers of the Government. Private parties may seek information in the possession of the President either in civil litigation with the Government or in a criminal proceeding brought by government prosecutors. Generally, the categories of executive privilege have been the same whether it is Congress or a private individual seeking the information, but it is possible that the congressional assertion of need may over-balance the presidential claim to a greater degree than that of a private individual. The judicial precedents are so meager that it is not yet possible so to state, however.

The doctrine of executive privilege defines the authority of the President to withhold documents or information in his possession or in the possession of the executive branch from compulsory process of the legislative or judicial branch of the government. The Constitution does not expressly confer upon the Executive Branch any such privilege, but it has been claimed that the privilege derives from the constitutional provision of separation of powers and from a necessary and proper concept respecting the carrying out of the duties of the presidency imposed by the Constitution. Historically, assertion of the doctrine has been largely confined to the areas of foreign relations, military affairs, pending investigations, and intragovernmental discussions.614 During the Nixon Administration, the litigation involved, of course, the claim of confidentiality of conversations between the President and his aides.

Private Access to Government Information.

Private par- ties may seek to obtain information from the government either to assist in defense to criminal charges brought by the government or in civil cases to use in either a plaintiff ’s or defendant’s capacity in suits with the government or between private parties.615 In criminal cases, a defendant is guaranteed compulsory process to obtain witnesses by the Sixth Amendment and by the due process clause is guaranteed access to relevant exculpatory information in the possession of the prosecution.616 Generally speaking, when the prosecution is confronted with a judicial order to turn over to a defendant information that it does not wish to make available, the prosecution has the option of dropping the prosecution and thus avoiding disclosure.617 But that alternative may not always be available; in the Watergate prosecution, only by revoking the authority of the Special Prosecutor and bringing the cases back into the confines of the Department of Justice could this possibility have been realized.618

In civil cases the government may invoke the state secrets privilege against revealing military or other secrets. In United States v. Reynolds,619 a tort claim brought against the United States for compensation for the deaths of civilians in the crash of an Air Force plane testing secret electronics equipment, plaintiffs sought discovery of the Air Force’s investigation report on the accident, and the government resisted on a claim of privilege as to the nondisclosure of military secrets. The Court accepted the Government’s claim, holding that courts must determine whether under the circumstances the claim of privilege was appropriate without going so far as to force disclosure of the thing the privilege is designed to protect. The private litigant’s showing of necessity for the information should govern in each case how far the trial court should probe. Where the necessity is strong, the court should require a strong showing of the appropriateness of the privilege claim, but once the court is satisfied of the appropriateness the privilege must prevail no matter how compelling the need.620

Reynolds dealt with an evidentiary privilege. There are other circumstances, however, in which cases must be “dismissed on the pleadings without ever reaching the question of evidence.”621 In holding that federal courts should refuse to entertain a breach of contract action seeking enforcement of an agreement to compensate someone who performed espionage services during the Civil War, the Court in Totten v. United States declared that “public policy forbids the maintenance of any suit in a court of justice, the trial of which would inevitably lead to the disclosure of matters which the law itself regards as confidential.”622

Prosecutorial and Grand Jury Access to Presidential Documents.

Rarely will there be situations when federal prosecutors or grand juries seek information under the control of the President, since he has ultimate direction of federal prosecuting agencies, but the Watergate Special Prosecutor, being in a unique legal situation, was held able to take the President to court to enforce subpoenas for tape recordings of presidential conversations and other documents relating to the commission of criminal actions.623 While holding that the subpoenas were valid and should be obeyed, the Supreme Court recognized the constitutional status of executive privilege, insofar as the assertion of that privilege relates to presidential conversations and indirectly to other areas as well.

Presidential communications, the Court said, have “a presumptive privilege.” “The privilege is fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution.” The operation of government is furthered by the protection accorded communications between high government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their duties. “A President and those who assist him must be free to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately.” The separation of powers basis derives from the conferral upon each of the branches of the Federal Government of powers to be exercised by each of them in great measure independent of the other branches. The confidentiality of presidential conversations flows then from the effectuation of enumerated powers.624

However, the Court continued, the privilege is not absolute. The federal courts have the power to construe and delineate claims arising under express and implied powers. Deference is owed the constitutional decisions of the other branches, but it is the function of the courts to exercise the judicial power, “to say what the law is.” The Judicial Branch has the obligation to do justice in criminal prosecutions, which involves the employment of an adversary system of criminal justice in which all the probative facts, save those clearly privileged, are to be made available. Thus, although the President’s claim of privilege is entitled to deference, the courts must balance two sets of interests when the claim depends solely on a broad, undifferentiated claim of confidentiality.

“In this case we must weigh the importance of the general privilege of confidentiality of presidential communications in performance of his responsibilities against the inroads of such a privilege on the fair administration of criminal justice. The interest in preserving confidentiality is weighty indeed and entitled to great respect. However we cannot conclude that advisers will be moved to temper the candor of their remarks by the infrequent occasions of disclosure because of the possibility that such conversations will be called for in the context of a criminal prosecution.”

“On the other hand, the allowance of the privilege to withhold evidence that is demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial would cut deeply into the guarantee of due process of law and gravely impair the basic function of the courts. A President’s acknowledged need for confidentiality in the communications of his office is general in nature, whereas the constitutional need for production of relevant evidence in a criminal proceeding is specific and central to the fair adjudication of a particular criminal case in the administration of justice. . . .”

“We conclude that when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice.”625

Obviously, United States v. Nixon left much unresolved. It did recognize the constitutional status of executive privilege as a doctrine. It did affirm the power of the courts to resolve disputes over claims of the privilege. But it left unsettled just how much power the courts have to review claims of privilege to protect what are claimed to be military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets. It did not indicate what the status of the claim of confidentiality of conversations is when it is raised in civil cases, nor did it touch upon denial of information to Congress, or public disclosure of information.

The Court’s decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services626 did not elucidate any of these questions to any great degree. In upholding the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, which directed the government to take custody of former President Nixon’s records so that they could be screened, catalogued, and processed by professional archivists in GSA, the Court viewed the assertion of privilege as directed only to the facial validity of the requirement of screening by executive branch professionals, and not at all related to the possible public disclosure of some of the records. The decision did recognize “adequate justifications” for enactment of the law, and termed them cumulatively “comparable” to those held to justify in camera inspection in United States v. Nixon.627 Congress’s purposes cited by the Court included the preservation of the materials for legitimate historical and governmental purposes, the rationalization of preservation and access to public needs as well as each President’s wishes, the preservation of the materials as a source for facilitating a full airing of the events leading to the former President’s resignation for public and congressional understanding, and preservation for the light shed upon issues in civil or criminal litigation. Although interestingly instructive, the decision may be so attuned to the narrow factual circumstances that led to the Act’s passage as to leave the case of little precedential value.

Public disclosure was at issue in 2004 when the Court weighed a claim of executive privilege asserted as a bar to discovery orders for information disclosing the identities of individuals who served on an energy task force chaired by the Vice President.628 Although the case was remanded on narrow technical grounds, the Court distinguished United States v. Nixon,629 and, in instructing the appeals court on how to proceed, emphasized the importance of confidentiality for advice tendered the President.630

Congressional Access to Executive Branch Information.

Presidents and Congresses have engaged in protracted disputes over provision of information from the former to the latter, but the basic thing to know is that most congressional requests for information are complied with. The disputes, however, have been colorful and varied.631 The basic premise of the concept of executive privilege, as it is applied to resist requests for information from Congress as from private parties with or without the assistance of the courts, is found in the doctrine of separation of powers, the prerogative of each coequal branch to operate within its own sphere independent of control or direction of the other branches. In this context, the President then asserts that phase of the claim of privilege relevant to the moment, such as confidentiality of communications, protection of diplomatic and military secrets, or preservation of investigative records. Counterposed against this assertion of presidential privilege is the power of Congress to obtain information upon which to legislate, to oversee the carrying out of its legislation, to check and root out corruption and wrongdoing in the Executive Branch, involving both the legislating and appropriating function of Congress, and in the final analysis to impeach the President, the Vice President, and all civil officers of the Federal Government.

Until quite recently, all disputes between the President and Congress with regard to requests for information were settled in the political arena, with the result that few if any lasting precedents were created and only disputed claims were left to future argument. The Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, however, elected to seek a declaratory judgment in the courts with respect to the President’s obligations to obey its subpoenas. The Committee lost its case, but the courts based their rulings upon prudential considerations rather than upon questions of basic power, inasmuch as by the time the case was considered impeachment proceedings were pending in the House of Representatives.632 The House Judiciary Committee subpoenas were similarly rejected by the President, but instead of going to the courts for enforcement, the Committee adopted as one of its Articles of Impeachment the refusal of the President to honor its subpoenas.633 Congress has considered bills by which Congress would authorize congressional committees to go to court to enforce their subpoenas; the bills did not purport to define executive privilege, although some indicate a standard by which the federal court is to determine whether the material sought is lawfully being withheld from Congress.634 The controversy gives little indication at the present time of abating, and it may be assumed that whenever the Executive and Congress are controlled by different political parties there will be persistent conflicts. One may similarly assume that the alteration of this situation would only reduce but not remove the disagreements.


2 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787 183 (rev. ed. 1937). [Back to text]
Id. at 538–39. [Back to text]
No. 64 (J. Cooke ed., 1961), 435–436. [Back to text]
31 ANNALS OF CONGRESS 106 (1818). [Back to text]
Washington sought to use the Senate as a council, but the effort proved futile, principally because the Senate balked. For the details see E. Corwin, supra, at 207–217. [Back to text]
United States v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 299 U.S. 304, 319 (1936). [Back to text]
E. Corwin, supra, at 428–429. [Back to text]
Treaties and Other International Agreements: The Role of the United States Senate, A Study Prepared for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations by the Congressional Research Service, 103d Cong., 1st Sess. (Comm. Print) (1993), 96–98 (hereinafter CRS Study); see also AMERICAN LAW INSTITUTE, RESTATEMENT (THIRD
) OF THE LAW, THE FOREIGN RELATIONS LAW OF THE UNITED STATES § 314 (hereinafter Restatement, Foreign Relations) (1987). See Fourteen Diamond Rings v. United States, 183 U.S. 176, 183 (1901).
[Back to text]
Cf. Art. I, § 5, cl. 1; see also Missouri Pacific Ry. v. Kansas, 248 U.S. 276, 283–84 (1919). [Back to text]
For instance, see S. CRANDALL, TREATIES, THEIR MAKING AND ENFORCEMENT 53 (2d ed. 1916); CRS Study, supra, 109–120. [Back to text]
Foster v. Neilson, 27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253, 313–14 (1829). See THE FEDERALIST No. 75 (J. Cooke ed. 1961), 504–505. [Back to text]
112 U.S. 580, 598 (1884) (quoted with approval in Medellin v. Texas, 128 S. Ct. 1346, 1357, 1358–59 (2008)). For treaty provisions operative as “law of the land” (self-executing), see S. Crandall, supra, at 36–42, 49–62, 151, 153–163, 179, 238–239, 286, 321, 338, 345–346. For treaty provisions of an “executory” character, see id. at 162–63, 232, 236, 238, 493, 497, 532, 570, 589. See also CRS Study, supra, at 41–68; Restatement, Foreign Relations, supra, §§ 111–115. [Back to text]
Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. 331, 353–54 (2006), quoting Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 137, 177 (1803). In Sanchez-Llamas, two foreign nationals were arrested in the United States, and, in violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, their nations’ consuls were not notified that they had been detained by authorities in a foreign country (the U.S.). The foreign nationals were convicted in Oregon and Virginia state courts, respectively, and cited the violations of Article 36 in challenging their convictions. The Court did not decide whether Article 36 grants rights that may be invoked by individuals in a judicial proceeding (four justices would have held that it did grant such rights). The reason that the Court did not decide whether Article 36 grants rights to defendants was that it held, by a 6-to-3 vote, that, even if Article 36 does grant rights, the defendants in the two cases before it were not entitled to relief on their claims. It found, specifically, that “suppression of evidence is [not] a proper remedy for a violation of Article 36,” and that “an Article 36 claim may be deemed forfeited under state procedural rules because a defendant failed to raise the claim at trial.” Id. at 342. [Back to text]
Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. at 355, quoting Kolovrat v. Oregon, 366 U.S. 187, 194 (1961). [Back to text]
Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. at 354, quoting Statute of the International Court of Justice, Art. 59, 59 Stat. 1062, T.S. No. 933 (1945) (emphasis added by the Court). [Back to text]
Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. at 355, quoting Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371, 375 (1998) (per curiam). [Back to text]
Medellin v. Texas, 128 S. Ct. 1346, 1356 (2008) (emphasis in the original, internal quotation marks omitted). As in the case of the foreign nationals in Sanchez-Llamas, Medellin’s nation’s consul had not been notified that he had been detained in the United States. Unlike the foreign nationals in Sanchez-Llamas, however, Medellin was named in an ICJ decision that found a violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention. [Back to text]
Medellin v. Texas, 128 S. Ct. 1346, 1353 (2008). “[T]he non-self-executing character of a treaty constrains the President’s ability to comply with treaty commitments by unilaterally making the treaty binding on domestic courts.” Id. at 1371. The majority opinion in Medellin was written by Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Stevens, concurring, noted that, even though the ICJ decision “is not ‘the supreme Law of the Land,’ U.S. Const., Art VI, cl. 2,” it constitutes an international law obligation not only on the part of the United States, but on the part of the State of Texas. Id. at 1374. This, of course, does not make it enforceable against Texas, but Justice Stevens found that “[t]he cost to Texas of complying with [the ICJ decision] would be minimal.” Id. at 1375. Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg, dissented, writing that “the consent of the United States to the ICJ’s jurisdiction[ ] bind[s] the courts no less than would ‘an act of the [federal] legislature.’ ” Id. at 1376. The dissent believed that, to find treaties non-self-executing “can threaten the application of provisions in many existing commercial and other treaties and make it more difficult to negotiate new ones.” Id. at 1381–82. Moreover, Justice Breyer wrote, the Court’s decision “place[s] the fate of an international promise made by the United States in the hands of a single State. . . . And that is precisely the situation that the Framers sought to prevent by enacting the Supremacy Clause.” Id. at 1384. On August 5, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Medellin a stay of execution, Medellin v. Texas, 129 S. Ct. 360 (2008) (Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissenting), and Texas executed him the same day. [Back to text]
S. CRANDALL, TREATIES, THEIR MAKING AND ENFORCEMENT ch. 3 (2d ed. 1916). [Back to text]
Id. at 30–32. For the text of the Treaty, see 1 Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols and Agreements Between the United States of America and Other Powers (1776–1909), 586 S. DOC. NO. 357, 61st Congress, 2d Sess. (W. Malloy ed., 1910). [Back to text]
Id. at 588. [Back to text]
R. MORRIS, JOHN JAY, THE NATION, AND THE COURT 73–84 (1967). [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 36–40. [Back to text]
The Convention at first leaned toward giving Congress a negative over state laws which were contrary to federal statutes or treaties, 1 M. Farrand, supra, at 47, 54, and then adopted the Paterson Plan which made treaties the supreme law of the land, binding on state judges, and authorized the Executive to use force to compel observance when such treaties were resisted. Id. at 245, 316, 2 id. at 27–29. In the draft reported by the Committee on Detail, the language thus adopted was close to the present Supremacy Clause; the draft omitted the authorization of force from the clause, id. at 183, but in another clause the legislative branch was authorized to call out the militia to, inter alia, “enforce treaties”. Id. at 182. The two words were struck subsequently “as being superfluous” in view of the Supremacy Clause. Id. at 389–90. [Back to text]
9 W. HENING, STATUTES OF VIRGINIA 377–380 (1821). [Back to text]
3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 199 (1796). [Back to text]
3 U.S. at 236–37. [Back to text]
7 U.S. (3 Cr.) 454 (1806). [Back to text]
See the discussion and cases cited in Hauenstein v. Lynham, 100 U.S. 483, 489–90 (1880). [Back to text]
100 U.S. 483 (1880). In Kolovrat v. Oregon, 366 U.S. 187, 197–98 (1961), the International Monetary Fund (Bretton Woods) Agreement of 1945, to which the United States and Yugoslavia were parties, and an Agreement of 1948 between these two nations, coupled with continued American observance of an 1881 treaty granting reciprocal rights of inheritance to Yugoslavian and American nations, were held to preclude Oregon from denying Yugoslavian aliens their treaty rights because of a fear that Yugoslavian currency laws implementing such Agreements prevented American nationals from withdrawing the proceeds from the sale of property inherited in the latter country. [Back to text]
See also Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258 (1890); Sullivan v. Kidd, 254 U.S. 433 (1921); Nielsen v. Johnson, 279 U.S. 47 (1929); Kolovrat v. Oregon, 366 U.S. 187 (1961). But a right under treaty to acquire and dispose of property does not except aliens from the operation of a state statute prohibiting conveyances of homestead property by any instrument not executed by both husband and wife. Todok v. Union State Bank, 281 U.S. 449 (1930). Nor was a treaty stipulation guaranteeing to the citizens of each country, in the territory of the other, equality with the natives of rights and privileges in respect to protection and security of person and property, violated by a state statute which denied to a non-resident alien wife of a person killed within the State, the right to sue for wrongful death. Such right was afforded to native resident relatives. Maiorano v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R., 213 U.S. 268 (1909). The treaty in question having been amended in view of this decision, the question arose whether the new provision covered the case of death without fault or negligence in which, by the Pennsylvania Workmen’s Compensation Act, compensation was expressly limited to resident parents; the Supreme Court held that it did not. Liberato v. Royer, 270 U.S. 535 (1926). [Back to text]
Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197 (1923). [Back to text]
332 U.S. 633 (1948). See also Takahashi v. Fish & Game Comm’n, 334 U.S. 410 (1948), in which a California statute prohibiting the issuance of fishing licenses to persons ineligible to citizenship was disallowed, both on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment and on the ground that the statute invaded a field of power reserved to the National Government, namely, the determination of the conditions on which aliens may be admitted, naturalized, and permitted to reside in the United States. For the latter proposition, Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 66 (1941), was relied upon. [Back to text]
This occurred in the much advertised case of Sei Fujii v. State, 38 Cal.2d 718, 242 P.2d 617 (1952). A lower California court had held that the legislation involved was void under the United Nations Charter, but the California Supreme Court was unanimous in rejecting this view. The Charter provisions invoked in this connection [Arts. 1, 55 and 56], said Chief Justice Gibson, “[w]e are satisfied . . . were not intended to supersede domestic legislation.” That is, the Charter provisions were not self-executing. RESTATEMENT, FOREIGN RELATIONS, supra, § 701, Reporters’ Note 5, pp. 155–56. [Back to text]
Clark v. Allen, 331 U.S. 503 (1947). See also Kolovrat v. Oregon, 366 U.S. 187 (1961). [Back to text]
2 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787 392–394 (rev. ed. 1937). [Back to text]
“Treaties as Law of the Land,” supra. [Back to text]
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253, 314 (1829). [Back to text]
Cf. Whitney v. Robertson, 124 U.S. 190, 194 (1888): “When the stipulations are not self-executing they can only be enforced pursuant to legislation to carry them into effect . . . . If the treaty contains stipulations which are self-executing that is, require no legislation to make them operative, to that extent they have the force and effect of a legislative enactment.” See S. Crandall, supra, chs. 11–15. [Back to text]
See infra, “When Is a Treaty Self-Executing.” [Back to text]
8 Stat. 116 (1794). [Back to text]
The story is told in numerous sources, including S. Crandall, supra, at 165–171. For Washington’s message refusing to submit papers relating to the treaty to the House, see J. Richardson, supra, at 123. [Back to text]
Debate in the House ran for more than a month. It was excerpted from the ANNALS separately published as DEBATES IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, DURING THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FOURTH CONGRESS UPON THE CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS OF THE HOUSE WITH RESPECT TO TREATIES (1796). A source of much valuable information on the views of the Framers and those who came after them on the treaty power, the debates are analyzed in detail in E. BYRD, TREATIES AND EXECUTIVE AGREEMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES 35–59 (1960). Gallatin served in the United States Senate for two months in 1793–1794, the House of Representatives from 1795–1801, and as Secretary of the Treasury from 1801–1814. [Back to text]
5 ANNALS OF CONGRESS 771, 782 (1796). The House adopted a similar resolution in 1871. CONG. GLOBE, 42d Congress, 1st sess. (1871), 835. [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 171–182; 1 W. WILLOUGHBY, THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF THE UNITED STATES 549–552 (2d ed. 1929); but see RESTATEMENT, FOREIGN RELATIONS, supra, § 111, Reporters’ Note 7, p. 57. See also H. REP. 4177, 49th Congress, 2d Sess. (1887). Cf. De Lima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1, 198 (1901). [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 183–199. [Back to text]
8 Stat. 228. [Back to text]
3 Stat. 255 (1816). See S. Crandall, supra, at 184–188. [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 188–195; 1 W. Willoughby, supra, at 555–560. [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 189–190. [Back to text]
Anderson, The Extent and Limitations of the Treaty-Making Power, 1 AM. J. INTL L. 636, 641 (1907). [Back to text]
At the conclusion of the 1815 debate, the Senate conferees noted in their report that some treaties might need legislative implementation, which Congress was bound to provide, but did not indicate what in their opinion made some treaties self-executing and others not. 29 ANNALS OF CONGRESS 160 (1816). The House conferees observed that they thought, and that in their opinion the Senate conferees agreed, that legislative implementation was necessary to carry into effect all treaties which contained “stipulations requiring appropriations, or which might bind the nation to lay taxes, to raise armies, to support navies, to grant subsidies, to create States, or to cede territory. . . .” Id. at 1019. Much the same language was included in a later report, H. REP. NO. 37, 40th Congress, 2d Sess. (1868). Controversy with respect to the sufficiency of Senate ratification of the Panama Canal treaties to dispose of United States property therein to Panama was extensive. A divided Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reached the question and held that Senate approval of the treaty alone was sufficient. Edwards v. Carter, 580 F.2d 1055 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 436 U.S. 907 (1978). [Back to text]
See, e.g., 5 Annals of Congress 493 (1796). [Back to text]
Head Money Cases, 112 U.S. 580, 598 (1884). The repealability of treaties by act of Congress was first asserted in an opinion of the Attorney General in 1854. 6 Ops. Atty. Gen. 291. The year following the doctrine was adopted judicially in a lengthy and cogently argued opinion of Justice Curtis, speaking for a United States circuit court in Taylor v. Morton, 23 Fed. Cas. 784 (No. 13,799) (C.C.D. Mass 1855). See also The Cherokee Tobacco, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 616 (1871); United States v. Forty-Three Gallons of Whiskey, 108 U.S. 491, 496 (1883); Botiller v. Dominguez, 130 U.S. 238 (1889); The Chinese Exclusion Case, 130 U.S. 581, 600 (1889); Whitney v. Robertson, 124 U.S. 190, 194 (1888); Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698, 721 (1893). “Congress by legislation, and so far as the people and authorities of the United States are concerned, could abrogate a treaty made between this country and another country which had been negotiated by the President and approved by the Senate.” La Abra Silver Mining Co. v. United States, 175 U.S. 423, 460 (1899). Cf. Reichart v. Felps, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 160, 165–66 (1868), which states in dictum that “Congress is bound to regard the public treaties, and it had no power . . . to nullify [Indian] titles confirmed many years before by the authorized agents of the government.” [Back to text]
Foster v. Neilson, 27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253, 314–15 (1829). In a later case, it was determined in a different situation that by its terms the treaty in issue, which had been assumed to be executory in the earlier case, was self-executing. United States v. Percheman, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 51 (1833). [Back to text]
E.g., United States v. Lee Yen Tai, 185 U.S. 213, 220–21 (1902); The Cherokee Tobacco, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 616, 621 (1871); Johnson v. Browne, 205 U.S. 309, 320–21 (1907); Whitney v. Roberston, 124 U.S. 190, 194 (1888). [Back to text]
1 W. Willoughby, supra, at 555. [Back to text]
Other cases, which are cited in some sources, appear distinguishable. United States v. Schooner Peggy, 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 103 (1801), applied a treaty entered into subsequent to enactment of a statute abrogating all treaties then in effect between the United States and France, so that it is inaccurate to refer to the treaty as superseding a prior statute. In United States v. Forty-Three Gallons of Whiskey, 93 U.S. 188 (1876), the treaty with an Indian tribe in which the tribe ceded certain territory, later included in a state, provided that a federal law restricting the sale of liquor on the reservation would continue in effect in the territory ceded; the Court found the stipulation an appropriate subject for settlement by treaty and the provision binding. See also Charlton v. Kelly, 229 U.S. 447 (1913). [Back to text]
288 U.S. 102 (1933). [Back to text]
42 Stat. 858, 979, § 581. [Back to text]
46 Stat. 590, 747, § 581. [Back to text]
Medellin v. Texas, 128 S. Ct. 1346, 1356 (2008), quoting Whitney v. Robertson, 124 U.S. 190, 194 (1888). [Back to text]
United States v. Schooner Peggy, 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 103 (1801). [Back to text]
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253 (1829). [Back to text]
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) at 314. Generally, qualifications may have been inserted in treaties out of a belief in their constitutional necessity or because of some policy reason. In regard to the former, it has always apparently been the practice to insert in treaties affecting the revenue laws of the United States a proviso that they should not be deemed effective until the necessary laws to carry them into operation should be enacted by Congress. 1 W. Willoughby, supra, at 558. Perhaps of the same nature was a qualification that cession of certain property in the Canal Zone should be dependent upon action by Congress inserted in Article V of the 1955 Treaty with Panama. TIAS 3297, 6 U.S.T. 2273, 2278. In regard to the latter, it may be noted that Article V of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, 8 Stat. 572, 575 (1842), providing for the transfer to Canada of land in Maine and Massachusetts was conditioned upon assent by the two states and payment to them of compensation. S. Crandall, supra, at 222–224. [Back to text]
Medellin v. Texas, 128 S. Ct. 1346, 1356 (2008), quoting Ingartua-De La Rosa v. United States, 417 F.3d 145, 150 (1st Cir. 2005) (en banc). [Back to text]
Q. Wright, supra, at 207–208. See also L. HENKIN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND THE CONSTITUTION 156–162 (1972). [Back to text]
Compare Foster v. Neilson, 27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253, 314–15 (1829), with Cook v. United States, 288 U.S. 102, 118–19 (1933). [Back to text]
Acts of March 2, 1829, 4 Stat. 359 and of February 24, 1855, 10 Stat. 614. [Back to text]
See In re Ross, 140 U.S. 453 (1891), where the treaty provisions involved are given. The supplementary legislation, later reenacted at Rev. Stat. 4083–4091, was repealed by the Joint Res. of August 1, 1956, 70 Stat. 774. The validity of the Ross case was subsequently questioned. See Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 12, 64, 75 (1957). [Back to text]
18 U.S.C. §§ 31813195. [Back to text]
Baldwin v. Franks, 120 U.S. 678, 683 (1887). [Back to text]
Neely v. Henkel, 180 U.S. 109, 121 (1901). A different theory is offered by Justice Story in his opinion for the court in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 539 (1842): “Treaties made between the United States and foreign powers, often contain special provisions, which do not execute themselves, but require the interposition of Congress to carry them into effect, and Congress has constantly, in such cases, legislated on the subject; yet, although the power is given to the executive, with the consent of the senate, to make treaties, the power is nowhere in positive terms conferred upon Congress to make laws to carry the stipulations of treaties into effect. It has been supposed to result from the duty of the national government to fulfill all the obligations of treaties.” Id. at 619. Story was here in quest of arguments to prove that Congress had power to enact a fugitive slave law, which he based on its power “to carry into effect rights expressly given and duties expressly enjoined” by the Constitution. Id. at 618–19. However, the treaty-making power is neither a right nor a duty, but one of the powers “vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States.” Art. I, § 8, cl. 18. [Back to text]
252 U.S. 416 (1920). [Back to text]
39 Stat. 1702 (1916). [Back to text]
40 Stat. 755 (1918). [Back to text]
United States v. Shauver, 214 F. 154 (E.D. Ark. 1914); United States v. McCullagh, 221 F. 288 (D. Kan. 1915). The Court did not purport to decide whether those cases were correctly decided. Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, 433 (1920). Today, there seems no doubt that Congress’s power under the commerce clause would be deemed more than adequate, but at that time a majority of the Court had a very restrictive view of the commerce power. Cf. Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918). [Back to text]
Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, 432 (1920). [Back to text]
252 U.S. at 433. The internal quotation is from Andrews v. Andrews, 188 U.S. 14, 33 (1903). [Back to text]
Whitney v. Robertson, 124 U.S. 190, 194 (1888). [Back to text]
“The treaty is . . . a law made by the proper authority, and the courts of justice have no right to annul or disregard any of its provisions, unless they violate the Constitution of the United States.” Doe v. Braden, 57 U.S. (16 How.) 635, 656 (1853). “It need hardly be said that a treaty cannot change the Constitution or be held valid if it be in violation of that instrument.” The Cherokee Tobacco, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.), 616, 620 (1871). See also Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258, 267 (1890); United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 700 (1898); Asakura v. City of Seattle, 265 U.S. 332, 341 (1924). [Back to text]
1 W. Willoughby, supra, at 561; L. Henkin, supra, at 137. In Power Authority of New York v. FPC, 247 F.2d 538 (2d Cir. 1957), a reservation attached by the Senate to a 1950 treaty with Canada was held invalid. The court observed that the reservation was properly not a part of the treaty but that if it were it would still be void as an attempt to circumvent constitutional procedures for enacting amendments to existing federal laws. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment on mootness grounds. 355 U.S. 64 (1957). In United States v. Guy W. Capps, Inc., 204 F.2d 655 (4th Cir. 1953), an executive agreement with Canada was held void as conflicting with existing legislation. The Supreme Court affirmed on nonconstitutional grounds. 348 U.S. 296 (1955). [Back to text]
Cf. City of New Orleans v. United States, 35 U.S. (10 Pet.) 662 (1836); Rocca v. Thompson, 223 U.S. 317 (1912). [Back to text]
252 U.S. 416 (1920). [Back to text]
252 U.S. at 433. Subsequently, he also observed: “The treaty in question does not contravene any prohibitory words to be found in the Constitution.” Id. [Back to text]
The attempt, the so-called “Bricker Amendment,” was aimed at the expansion into reserved state powers through treaties as well as executive agreements. The key provision read: “A treaty shall become effective as internal law in the United States only through legislation which would be valid in the absence of treaty.” S.J. Res. 43, 82d Congress, 1st Sess. (1953), § 2. See also S.J. Res. 1, 84th Congress, 1st Sess. (1955), § 2. Extensive hearings developed the issues thoroughly but not always clearly. Hearings on S.J. Res. 130: Before a Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 82d Congress, 2d Sess. (1952). Hearings on S.J. Res. 1 & 43: Before a Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 83d Congress, 1st Sess. (1953). [Back to text]
354 U.S. 1 (1957) (plurality opinion). [Back to text]
354 U.S. at 16–17. For discussions of the issue, see Restatement, Foreign Relations, § 302; Nowak & Rotunda, A Comment on the Creation and Resolution of a “Non-Problem”: Dames & Moore v. Regan, the Foreign Affairs Power, and the Role of the Courts, 29 UCLA L. REV. 1129 (1982); L. Henkin, supra, at 137–156. [Back to text]
Ware v. Hylton, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 199 (1796); Fairfax’s Devisee v. Hunter’s Lessee, 11 U.S. (7 Cr.) 603 (1813); Chirac v. Chirac, 15 U.S. (2 Wheat.) 259 (1817); Hauenstein v. Lynham, 100 U.S. 483 (1880). Jefferson, in his list of exceptions to the treaty power, thought the Constitution “must have meant to except out of these the rights reserved to the States, for surely the President and Senate cannot do by treaty what the whole Government is interdicted from doing in any way.” Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice, § 594, reprinted in THE RULES AND MANUAL OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, H. Doc. 102–405, 102d Congress, 2d Sess. (1993), 298–299. But this view has always been the minority one. Q. Wright, supra, at 92 n.97. The nearest the Court ever came to supporting this argument appears to be Frederickson v. Louisiana, 64 U.S. (23 How.) 445, 448 (1860). [Back to text]
Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920). [Back to text]
252 U.S. at 433–34. [Back to text]
252 U.S. at 435. [Back to text]
1 W. Willoughby, supra, at 569. See also L. Henkin, supra, at 143–148; Restatement, Foreign Relations, § 302, Comment d, & Reporters’ Note 3, pp. 154–157. [Back to text]
E.g., Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258, 266–267 (1890); Holden v. Joy, 84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 211, 243 (1872). Jefferson listed as an exception from the treaty power “those subjects of legislation in which [the Constitution] gave a participation to the House of Representatives,” although he admitted “that it would leave very little matter for the treaty power to work on.” Jefferson’s Manual, supra, at 299. [Back to text]
Q. Wright, supra, at 101–103. See also, L. Henkin, supra, at 148–151. [Back to text]
Cf. Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957). See also Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258, 267 (1890). [Back to text]
“[I]t must be assumed that the framers of the Constitution intended that [the treaty power] should extend to all those objects which in the intercourse of nations had usually been regarded as the proper subjects of negotiation and treaty. . . .” Holden v. Joy, 84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 211, 243 (1872). With the exceptions noted, “it is not perceived that there is any limit to the questions which can be adjusted touching any matter which is properly the subject of negotiation with a foreign country.” Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258, 267 (1890). “The treatymaking power of the United States . . . does extend to all proper subjects of negotiation between our government and other nations.” Asakura v. City of Seattle, 265 U.S. 332, 341 (1924). [Back to text]
Cf. L. Henkin, supra, at 151–56. [Back to text]
Other reservations have been expressed. One contention has been that the territory of a state may not be ceded without such state’s consent. Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258, 267 (1890), citing Fort Leavenworth R.R. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 541 (1885). Cf. the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, Article V, 8 Stat. 572, 575. But see S. Crandall, supra, at 220–229; 1 W. Willoughby, supra, at 572–576. A further contention is that, although foreign territory may be annexed to the United States by the treaty power, it may not be incorporated with the United States except with the consent of Congress. Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 310–344 (1901) (four Justices dissenting). This argument appears to be a variation of the one in regard to the correct procedure to give domestic effect to treaties. Another argument grew out the XII Hague Convention of 1907, proposing an International Prize Court with appellate jurisdiction from national courts in prize cases. President Taft objected that no treaty could transfer to a tribunal not known to the Constitution any part of the judicial power of the United States, and a compromise was arranged. Q. Wright, supra, at 117–118; H. REP. NO. 1569, 68th Congress, 2d Sess. (1925). [Back to text]
Cf. United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304, 318 (1936); Holmes v. Jennison, 39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 540, 575–576 (1840). [Back to text]
1 Stat. 578 (1798). [Back to text]
4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 37 (1800). See also Gray v. United States, 21 Ct. Cl. 340 (1886), with respect to claims arising out of this situation. [Back to text]
The matter was most extensively canvassed in the debate with respect to President Carter’s termination of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954 with the Republic of China (Taiwan). See, e.g., the various views argued in Treaty Termination:Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979). On the issue generally, see Restatement, Foreign Relations, § 339; CRS Study, supra, 158–167; L. Henkin, supra, at 167–171; Bestor, Respective Roles of Senate and President in the Making and Abrogation of Treaties: The Original Intent of the Framers of the Constitution Historically Examined, 55 WASH. L. REV. 1 (1979); Berger, The President’s Unilateral Termination of the Taiwan Treaty, 75 NW. U. L. REV. 577 (1980). [Back to text]
Compare the different views of the 1846 action in Treaty Termination: Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979), 160–162 (memorandum of Hon. Herbert Hansell, Legal Advisor, Department of State), and in Taiwan: Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979), 300 (memorandum of Senator Goldwater). [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 458–459. [Back to text]
Id. at 459–62; Q. Wright, supra, at 258. [Back to text]
38 Stat. 1164 (1915). [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, at 460. See Van der Weyde v. Ocean Transp. Co., 297 U.S. 114 (1936). [Back to text]
41 Stat. 1007. See Reeves, The Jones Act and the Denunciation of Treaties, 15 AM. J. INTL. L. 33 (1921). In 1879, Congress passed a resolution requiring the President to abrogate a treaty with China, but President Hayes vetoed it, partly on the ground that Congress as an entity had no role to play in ending treaties, only the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. 9 J. Richardson, supra, at 4466, 4470–4471. For the views of President Taft on the matter, see W. TAFT, THE PRESIDENCY, ITS DUTIES, ITS POWERS, ITS OPPORTUNITIES AND ITS LIMITATIONS 112–113 (1916). [Back to text]
Since this time, very few instances appear in which Congress has requested or directed termination by notice, but they have resulted in compliance. E.g., 65 Stat. 72 (1951) (directing termination of most-favored-nation provisions with certain Communist countries in commercial treaties); 70 Stat. 773 (1956) (requesting renunciation of treaty rights of extraterritoriality in Morroco). The most recent example appears to be § 313 of the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, which required the Secretary of State to terminate immediately, in accordance with its terms, the tax treaty and protocol with South Africa that had been concluded on December 13, 1946. Pub. L. 99–440, 100 Stat. 3515 (1986), 22 U.S.C. § 5063. [Back to text]
5 J. Richardson, supra, at 279, 334. [Back to text]
S. REP. NO. 97, 34th Congress, 1st Sess. (1856), 6–7. The other instance was President Wilson’s request, which the Senate endorsed, for termination of the International Sanitary Convention of 1903. See 61 CONG. REC. 1793–1794 (1921). See CRS Study, supra at 161–62. [Back to text]
Compare, e.g., Treaty Termination: Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979), 156–191 (memorandum of Hon. Herbert Hansell, Legal Advisor, Department of State), with Taiwan: Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979), 300–307 (memorandum of Senator Goldwater). See CRS Study, supra at 164–66. [Back to text]
13 Stat. 568 (1865). [Back to text]
The treaty, see 11 C. BEVANS, TREATIES AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 894 (1970), was probably at odds with the Tariff Act of 1897. 30 Stat. 151. [Back to text]
Compare the views expressed in the Hansell and Goldwater memoranda, supra. For expressions of views preceding the immediate controversy, see, e.g., Riesenfeld, The Power of Congress and the President in International Relations, 25 CALIF. L. REV. 643, 658–665 (1937); Nelson, The Termination of Treaties and Executive Agreements by the United States, 42 MINN. L. REV. 879 (1958). [Back to text]
Note that the President terminated the treaty in the face of an expression of the sense of Congress that prior consultation between President and Congress should occur. 92 Stat. 730, 746 (1978). [Back to text]
Originally, S. Res. 15 had disapproved presidential action alone, but it was amended and reported by the Foreign Relations Committee to recognize at least 14 bases of presidential termination. S. REP. NO. 119, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979). In turn, this resolution was amended to state the described sense of the Senate view, but the matter was never brought to final action. See 125 CONG. REC. 13672, 13696, 13711, 15209, 15859 (1979). [Back to text]
Goldwater v. Carter, 617 F.2d 697 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (en banc), vacated and remanded, 444 U.S. 996 (1979). Four Justices found the case nonjusticiable because of the political question doctrine, id. at 1002, but one other Justice in the majority and one in dissent rejected this analysis. Id. at 998 (Justice Powell), 1006 (Justice Brennan). The remaining three Justices were silent on the doctrine. [Back to text]
Cf. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 211–13, 217 (1962). [Back to text]
229 U.S. 447 (1913). [Back to text]
229 U.S. at 473–76. [Back to text]
Clark v. Allen, 331 U.S. 503 (1947). [Back to text]
23 Fed. Cas. 784 (No. 13,799) (C.C.D. Mass. 1855). [Back to text]
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253, 309 (1829). Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), qualifies this certainty considerably, and Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996 (1979), prolongs the uncertainty. See L. Henkin, supra at 208–16; Restatement, Foreign Relations, § 326. [Back to text]
30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831). [Back to text]
31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832). [Back to text]
31 U.S. at 558. [Back to text]
Holden v. Joy, 84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 211, 242 (1872); United States v. Forty-Three Gallons of Whiskey, 93 U.S. 188, 192 (1876); Dick v. United States, 208 U.S. 340, 355–56 (1908). [Back to text]
The New York Indians, 72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 761 (1867). [Back to text]
The Kansas Indians, 72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 737, 757 (1867). [Back to text]
United States v. Forty-Three Gallons of Whiskey, 93 U.S. 188, 196 (1876). [Back to text]
The Cherokee Tobacco, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 616 (1871). See also Ward v. Race Horse, 163 U.S. 504, 511 (1896); Thomas v. Gay, 169 U.S. 264, 270 (1898). [Back to text]
16 Stat. 566; Rev. Stat. § 2079, now contained in 25 U.S.C. § 71. [Back to text]
Ward v. Race Horse, 163 U.S. 504 (1896). [Back to text]
Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, 187 U.S. 553 (1903). [Back to text]
Cherokee Nation v. Southern Kansas Ry., 135 U.S. 641 (1890). [Back to text]
The Cherokee Tobacco, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 616, 621 (1871). [Back to text]
Choate v. Trapp, 224 U.S. 665, 677–78 (1912); Jones v. Meehan, 175 U.S. 1 (1899). See also Hodel v. Irving, 481 U.S. 704 (1987) (section of law providing for escheat to tribe of fractionated interests in land representing less than 2% of a tract’s total acreage violates Fifth Amendment’s taking clause by completely abrogating rights of intestacy and devise). [Back to text]
Compare Article II, § 2, cl. 2, and Article VI, cl. 2, with Article I, 10, cls. 1 and 3. Cf. Holmes v. Jennison, 39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 540, 570–72 (1840). And note the discussion in Weinberger v. Rossi, 456 U.S. 25, 28–32 (1982). [Back to text]
CRS Study, xxxiv-xxxv, supra, 13–16. Not all such agreements, of course, are published, either because of national-security/secrecy considerations or because the subject matter is trivial. In a 1953 hearing exchange, Secretary of State Dulles estimated that about 10,000 executive agreements had been entered into in connection with the NATO treaty. “Every time we open a new privy, we have to have an executive agreement.” Hearing on S.J. Res. 1 and S.J. Res. 43: Before a Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 83d Congress, 1st Sess. (1953), 877. [Back to text]
One authority concluded that of the executive agreements entered into between 1938 and 1957, only 5.9 percent were based exclusively on the President’s constitutional authority. McLaughlin, The Scope of the Treaty Power in the United States—II, 43 MINN. L. REV. 651, 721 (1959). Another, somewhat overlapping study found that in the period 1946–1972, 88.3% of executive agreements were based at least in part on statutory authority; 6.2% were based on treaties, and 5.5% were based solely on executive authority. International Agreements: An Analysis of Executive Regulations and Practices, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. (Comm. Print) (1977), 22 (prepared by CRS). [Back to text]
“[T]he distinction between so-called ‘executive agreements’ and ‘treaties’ is purely a constitutional one and has no international significance.” Harvard Research in International Law, Draft Convention on the Law of Treaties, 29 AMER. J. INT. L. 697 (Supp.) (1935). See E. Byrd, supra at 148–151. Many scholars have aggressively promoted the use of executive agreements, in contrast to treaties, as a means of enhancing the role of the United States, especially the role of the President, in the international system. See McDougal & Lans, Treaties and Congressional-Executive or Presidential Agreements: Interchangeable Instruments of National Policy (Pts. I & II), 54 YALE L. J. 181, 534 (1945). [Back to text]
1 Stat. 138 (1790). See E. Byrd, supra at 53 n.146. [Back to text]
Id. at 38–40. The statute was 1 Stat. 232, 239, 26 (1792). [Back to text]
McClure at 62–70. [Back to text]
Id. at 78–81; S. Crandall, supra at 127–31; see CRS Study, supra at 52–55. [Back to text]
Id. at 121–27; W. McClure, supra at 83–92, 173–89. [Back to text]
Id. at 8, 59–60. [Back to text]
§ 3, 26 Stat. 567, 612. [Back to text]
Tariff Act of 1897, § 3, 30 Stat. 15, 203; Tariff Act of 1909, 36 Stat. 11, 82. [Back to text]
48 Stat. 943, § 350(a), 19 U.S.C. §§ 13511354. [Back to text]
See the continued expansion of the authority. Trade Expansion Act of 1962, 76 Stat. 872, § 201, 19 U.S.C. § 1821; Trade Act of 1974, 88 Stat. 1982, as amended, 19 U.S.C. §§ 2111, 2115, 2131(b), 2435. Congress has, with respect to the authorization to the President to negotiate multilateral trade agreements under the auspices of GATT, constrained itself in considering implementing legislation, creating a “fast-track” procedure under which legislation is brought up under a tight timetable and without the possibility of amendment. 19 U.S.C. §§ 21912194. [Back to text]
143 U.S. 649 (1892). [Back to text]
143 U.S. at 694. See also Dames & Moore v. Regan, 453 U.S. 654 (1981), in which the Court sustained a series of implementing actions by the President pursuant to executive agreements with Iran in order to settle the hostage crisis. The Court found that Congress had delegated to the President certain economic powers underlying the agreements and that his suspension of claims powers had been implicitly ratified over time by Congress’s failure to set aside the asserted power. Also see Weinberger v. Rossi, 456 U.S. 25, 29–30 n.6 (1982). [Back to text]
224 U.S. 583 (1912). [Back to text]
224 U.S. at 601. [Back to text]
55 Stat. 31. [Back to text]
E.g., 48 Stat. 1182 (1934), authorizing the President to accept membership for the United States in the International Labor Organization. [Back to text]
See E. Corwin, supra at 216. [Back to text]
W. McClure, supra at 13–14. [Back to text]
Id. at 14. [Back to text]
1 W. Willoughby, supra at 543. [Back to text]
A Decade of American Foreign Policy, S. Doc. No. 123, 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 126 (1950). [Back to text]
Id. at 158. [Back to text]
Wilson v. Girard, 354 U.S. 524 (1957). [Back to text]
Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 16–17 (1957) (plurality opinion); id. at 66 (Justice Harlan concurring). [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra, ch. 8; see also W. McClure, supra, chs. 1, 2. [Back to text]
Id. at 49–50. [Back to text]
Id. at 81–82. [Back to text]
Tucker v. Alexandroff, 183 U.S. 424, 435 (1902). [Back to text]
Id. at 467. The first of these conventions, signed July 29, 1882, had asserted its constitutionality in very positive terms. Q. Wright, supra at 239 (quoting Watts v. United States, 1 Wash. Terr. 288, 294 (1870)). [Back to text]
Id. at 245. [Back to text]
S. Crandall, supra at 103–04. [Back to text]
Id. at 104. [Back to text]
1 W. Willoughby, supra at 539. [Back to text]
W. McClure, supra at 98. [Back to text]
Id. at 96–97. [Back to text]
Id. at 98–99. [Back to text]
Id. at 99–100. [Back to text]
Id. at 140–44. [Back to text]
Id. at 391. [Back to text]
Id. at 391–93. Attorney General Jackson’s defense of the presidential power to enter into the arrangement placed great reliance on the President’s “inherent” powers under the Commander-in-Chief clause and as sole organ of foreign relations but ultimately found adequate statutory authority to take the steps deemed desirable. 39 Ops. Atty. Gen. 484 (1940). [Back to text]
4 Dept. State Bull. 443 (1941). [Back to text]
See A Decade of American Foreign Policy, Basic Documents 1941–1949, S. Doc. No. 123, 81st Congress, 1st Sess. (1950), pt. 1. [Back to text]
For a congressional attempt to evaluate the extent of such commitments, see United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 91st Congress, 1st Sess. (1969), 10 pts.; see also U.S. Commitments to Foreign Powers: Hearings on S. Res. 151 Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 90th Congress, 1st Sess. (1967). [Back to text]
The “National Commitments Resolution,” S. Res. 85, 91st Congress, 1st Sess., passed by the Senate June 25, 1969. See also S. REP. NO. 797, 90th Congress, 1st sess. (1967). See the discussion of these years in CRS study, supra at 169–202. [Back to text]
In 1918, Secretary of State Lansing assured the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Lansing-Ishii Agreement had no binding force on the United States, that it was simply a declaration of American policy so long as the President and State Department might choose to continue it. 1 W. Willoughby, supra at 547. In fact, it took the Washington Conference of 1921, two formal treaties, and an exchange of notes to eradicate it, while the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” was finally ended after 17 years only by an act of Congress. W. McClure, supra at 97, 100. [Back to text]
See E. Byrd, supra at 151–57. [Back to text]
E.g., United States v. One Bag of Paradise Feathers, 256 F. 301, 306 (2d Cir. 1919); 1 W. Willoughby, supra at 589. The State Department held the same view. G. HACKWORTH, 5 DIGEST OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 426 (1944). [Back to text]
301 U.S. 324 (1937). In B. Altman & Co. v. United States, 224 U.S. 583 (1912), the Court had recognized that a jurisdictional statute’s reference to a “treaty” encompassed an executive agreement. [Back to text]
United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp., 299 U.S. 304 (1936). [Back to text]
301 U.S. at 330–31. [Back to text]
315 U.S. 203 (1942). [Back to text]
315 U.S. at 229–31, 233–34. [Back to text]
There were numerous variations in language for the Bricker Amendment, but typical was § 3 of S.J. Res. 1, as reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee, 83d Congress, 1st Sess. (1953), which provided: “Congress shall have power to regulate all executive and other agreements with any foreign power or international organization. All such agreements shall be subject to the limitations imposed on treaties by this article.” The limitation relevant on this point was in § 2, which provided: “A treaty shall become effective as internal law in the United States only through legislation which would be valid in the absence of treaty.” [Back to text]
539 U.S. 396 (2003). The Court’s opinion in Dames & Moore v. Regan, 453 U.S. 654 (1981), was rich in learning on many topics involving executive agreements, but the preemptive force of agreements resting solely on presidential power was not at issue, the Court concluding that Congress had either authorized various presidential actions or had long acquiesced in others. [Back to text]
539 U.S. at 416. [Back to text]
539 U.S. at 413. [Back to text]
539 U.S. at 420. [Back to text]
Holmes v. Jennison, 39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 540, 575–76 (1840). See also United States v. Belmont, 301 U.S. 324, 331 (1937) (“The external powers of the United States are to be exercised without regard to state laws or policies. . . . [I]n respect of our foreign relations generally, state lines disappear”); The Chinese Exclusion Case, 130 U.S. 581, 606 (1889) (“For local interests the several States of the Union exist; but for national purposes, embracing our relations with foreign nations, we are but one people, one nation, one power”); Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 63 (1941) (“Our system of government . . . requires that federal power in the field affecting foreign relations be left entirely free from local interference”). [Back to text]
United States v. Pink, 315 U.S. 203, 233–34 (1942). Chief Justice Stone and Justice Roberts dissented. [Back to text]
389 U.S. 429 (1968). [Back to text]
In Clark v. Allen, 331 U.S. 503 (1947), the Court had upheld a simple reciprocity requirement that did not have the additional requirement relating to confiscation. [Back to text]
389 U.S. at 440. [Back to text]
389 U.S. at 440, 441. [Back to text]
See, e.g., Michael D. Ramsey, The Power of the States in Foreign Affairs: The Original Understanding of Foreign Policy Federalism, 75 NOTRE DAME L. REV. 341 (1999); Carlos Manuel Vazquez, Whither Zschernig?, 46 VILL. L. REV. 1259 (2001); Jack L. Goldsmith, Federal Courts, Foreign Affairs, and Federalism, 83 VA. L. REV. 1617 (1997); Peter J. Spiro, Foreign Relations Federalism, 70 U. COLO. L. REV. 1223 (1999). See also LOUIS HENKIN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND THE CONSTITUTION 149–69 (2d ed. 1996). [Back to text]
Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363, 374 n.8 (2000). For the appeals court’s application of Zschernig, see National Foreign Trade Council v. Natsios, 181 F.3d 38, 49–61 (1st Cir. 1999). [Back to text]
American Ins. Ass’n v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. at 419 & n.11 (2003). [Back to text]
It is contended, for example, that Article I, § 10‘s specific prohibitions against states engaging in war, making treaties, keeping troops in peacetime, and issuing letters of marque and reprisal would have been unnecessary if a more general, dormant foreign relations power had been intended. Similarly, there would have been no need to declare treaties to be the supreme law of the land if a more generalized foreign affairs preemptive power existed outside of the Supremacy Clause. See Ramsey, supra. [Back to text]
Arguably, part of the “executive power” vested in the President by Art. II, § 1 is a power to conduct foreign relations. [Back to text]
539 U.S. at 419 n.11. [Back to text]
Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Garamendi, joined by the other three Justices, suggested limiting Zschernig in a manner generally consistent with Justice Souter’s distinction. Zschernig preemption, Justice Ginsburg asserted, “resonates most audibly when a state action ‘reflects a state policy critical of foreign governments and involve[s] sitting in judgment on them.’ ” 539 U.S. at 439 (quoting Henkin, supra, at 164). But Justice Ginsburg also voiced more general misgivings about judges’ becoming “the expositors of the Nation’s foreign policy.” Id. at 442. In this context, see Goldsmith, supra, at 1631, describing Zschernig preemption as “a form of the federal common law of foreign relations.” [Back to text]
United States v. Hartwell, 73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 385, 393 (1868). [Back to text]
7 Ops. Atty. Gen. 168 (1855). [Back to text]
It was so assumed by Senator William Maclay. THE JOURNAL OF WILLIAM MACLAY 109–10 (E. Maclay ed., 1890). [Back to text]
26 ANNALS OF CONGRESS 694–722 (1814) (quotation appearing at 699); 4 LETTERS AND OTHER WRITINGS OF JAMES MADISON 350–353 (1865). [Back to text]
10 Stat. 619, 623. [Back to text]
7 Ops. Atty. Gen. 186, 220 (1855). [Back to text]
60 Stat. 999, superseded by the Foreign Service Act of 1980, Pub. L. 96–465, 94 Stat. 2071, 22 U.S.C. §§ 3901 et seq. [Back to text]
S. Misc. Doc, 109, 50th Congress, 1st Sess. (1888), 104. [Back to text]
S. REP. NO. 227, 53d Congress, 2d Sess. (1894), 25. At the outset of our entrance into World War I President Wilson dispatched a mission to “Petrograd,” as it was then called, without nominating the Members of it to the Senate. It was headed by Mr. Elihu Root, with “the rank of ambassador,” while some of his associates bore “the rank of envoy extraordinary.” [Back to text]
See 2 G. HOAR, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SEVENTY YEARS 48–51 (1903). [Back to text]
However, “Congress’s power . . . is inevitably bounded by the express language of Article II, cl. 2, and unless the method it provides comports with the latter, the holders of those offices will not be ‘Officers of the United States.’ ” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 138–39 (1976) (quoted in Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 883 (1991)). The designation or appointment of military judges, who are “officers of the United States,” does not violate the Appointments Clause. The judges are selected by the Judge Advocate General of their respective branch of the Armed Forces. These military judges, however, were already commissioned officers who had been appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, so that their designation simply and permissibly was an assignment to them of additional duties that did not need a second formal appointment. Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S. 163 (1994). However, the appointment of civilian judges to the Coast Guard Court of Military Review was impermissible and their actions were not salvageable under the de facto officer doctrine. Ryder v. United States, 515 U.S. 177 (1995). [Back to text]
See Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 264–74 (1926) (Justice Brandeis dissenting). Chief Justice Taft in the opinion of the Court in Myers readily recognized the legislative power of Congress to establish offices, determine their functions and jurisdiction, fix the terms of office, and prescribe reasonable and relevant qualifications and rules of eligibility of appointees, always provided “that the qualifications do not so limit selection and so trench upon executive choice as to be in effect legislative designation.” Id. at 128–29. For reiteration of Congress’s general powers, see Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 134–35 (1976); Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 673–77 (1988). See also United States v. Ferreira, 54 U.S. (13 How.) 40, 51 (1851). [Back to text]
See data in E. Corwin, supra at 363–65. Congress has repeatedly designated individuals, sometimes by name, more frequently by reference to a particular office, for the performance of specified acts or for posts of a nongovernmental character; e.g., to paint a picture (Johnathan Trumbull), to lay out a town, to act as Regents of Smithsonian Institution, to be managers of Howard Institute, to select a site for a post office or a prison, to restore the manuscript of the Declaration of Independence, to erect a monument at Yorktown, to erect a statue of Hamilton, and so on and so forth. Note, Power of Appointment to Public Office under the Federal Constitution, 42 HARV. L. REV. 426, 430–31 (1929). In his message of April 13, 1822, President Monroe stated that, “as a general principle, . . . Congress have [sic] no right under the Constitution to impose any restraint by law on the power granted to the President so as to prevent his making a free selection of proper persons for these [newly created] offices from the whole body of his fellow-citizens.” 2 J. Richardson supra at 698, 701. The statement is ambiguous, but its apparent intention is to claim for the President unrestricted power in determining who are proper persons to fill newly created offices. See the distinction drawn in Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 128–29 (1926), quoted supra. And note that in Public Citizen v. U.S. Department of Justice, 491 U.S. 440, 482–89 (1989) (concurring), Justice Kennedy suggested the President has sole and unconfined discretion in appointing). [Back to text]
The Sentencing Commission, upheld in Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989), numbered among its members three federal judges; the President was to select them “after considering a list of six judges recommended to the President by the Judicial Conference of the United States.” Id. at 397 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 991(a)). The Comptroller General is nominated by the President from a list of three individuals recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate. Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 727 (1986) (citing 31 U.S.C. § 703(a)(2)). In Metropolitan Washington Airports Auth. v. Citizens for the Abatement of Airport Noise, 501 U.S. 252, 268–69 (1991), the Court carefully distinguished these examples from the particular situation before it that it condemned, but see id. at 288 (Justice White dissenting), and in any event it never actually passed on the list devices in Mistretta and Synar. The fault in Airports Authority was not the validity of lists generally, the Court condemning the device there as giving Congress control of the process, in violation of Buckley v. Valeo. [Back to text]
Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 109–143 (1976). The Court took pains to observe that the clause was violated not only by the appointing process but by the confirming process, inclusion of the House of Representatives, as well. Id. at 137. See also Metropolitan Washington Airports Auth. v. Citizens for the Abatement of Aircraft Noise, 501 U.S. 252 (1991). [Back to text]
Concurrently, of course, although it may seem odd, the question of what is a “Court[] of Law” for purposes of the Appointments Clause is unsettled. See Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868 (1991) (Court divides 5-to-4 whether an Article I court is a court of law under the clause). [Back to text]
Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S.868, 881 (1991) (quoting Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 126 (1976)). [Back to text]
United States v. Germaine, 99 U.S. 508, 509–510 (1879) (quoted in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 125 (1976)). The constitutional definition of an “inferior” officer is wondrously imprecise. See Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 880–882 (1991); Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 670–73 (1988). See also United States v. Eaton, 169 U.S. 331 (1898). There is another category, of course, employees, but these are lesser functionaries subordinate to officers of the United States. Ordinarily, the term “employee” denotes one who stands in a contractual relationship to her employer, but here it signifies all subordinate officials of the Federal Government receiving their appointments at the hands of officials who are not specifically recognized by the Constitution as capable of being vested by Congress with the appointing power. Auffmordt v. Hedden, 137 U.S. 310, 327 (1890). See Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, 282 U.S. 344, 352–53 (1931); Burnap v. United States, 252 U.S. 512, 516–17 (1920); Germaine, 99 U.S. at 511–12. [Back to text]
520 U.S. 651 (1997). [Back to text]
520 U.S. at 661–62. [Back to text]
520 U.S. at 662–63. The case concerned whether the Secretary of Transportation, a presidential appointee with the advice and consent of the Senate, could appoint judges of the Coast Guard Court of Military Appeals; necessarily, the judges had to be “inferior” officers. In related cases, the Court held that designation or appointment of military judges, who are “officers of the United States,” does not violate the Appointments Clause. The judges are selected by the Judge Advocate General of their respective branch of the Armed Forces. These military judges, however, were already commissioned officers who had been appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, so that their designation simply and permissibly was an assignment to them of additional duties that did not need a second formal appointment. Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S. 163 (1994). However, the appointment of civilian judges to the Coast Guard Court of Military Review by the same method was impermissible; they had either to be appointed by an officer who could exercise appointment-clause authority or by the President, and their actions were not salvageable under the de facto officer doctrine. Ryder v. United States, 515 U.S. 177 (1995). [Back to text]
Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 919 (1991) (Justice Scalia concurring). [Back to text]
Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 884–85 (1991). [Back to text]
501 U.S. at 886 (citing Germaine and Burnap, the Opinion Clause (Article II, § 2), and the 25th Amendment, which, in its § 4, referred to “executive departments” in a manner that reached only cabinet-level entities). But compare id. at 915–22 (Justice Scalia concurring). [Back to text]
501 U.S. at 886 (emphasis added). [Back to text]
501 U.S. at 886–88. Compare id. at 915–19 (Justice Scalia concurring). [Back to text]
501 U.S. at 888–92. This holding was vigorously controverted by the other four Justices. Id. at 901–14 (Justice Scalia concurring). [Back to text]
501 U.S. at 918, 919 (Justice Scalia concurring). [Back to text]
As the text suggested, Freytag seemed to be a tentative decision, and Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651 (1997), a unanimous decision written by Justice Scalia, whose concurring opinion in Freytag challenged the Court’s analysis, may easily be read as retreating considerably from it. [Back to text]
In re Hennen, 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 230 (1839). The suggestion was that inferior officers are intended to be subordinate to those in whom their appointment is vested. Id. at 257–58; United States v. Germaine, 99 U.S. 508, 509 (1879). [Back to text]
100 U.S. 371 (1880). [Back to text]
Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 673–77 (1988). See also Young v. United States ex rel. Vuitton, 481 U.S. 787 (1987) (appointment of private attorneys to act as prosecutors for judicial contempt judgments); Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 868, 888–92 (1991) (appointment of special judges by Chief Judge of Tax Court). [Back to text]
19 Stat. 143, 169 (1876). [Back to text]
Ex parte Curtis, 106 U.S. 371 (1882). Chief Justice Waite’s opinion extensively reviews early congressional legislation regulative of conduct in office. Id. at 372–73. [Back to text]
22 Stat. 403 (the Pendleton Act). On this law and subsequent enactments that created the civil service as a professional cadre of bureaucrats insulated from politics, see Developments in the Law: Public Employment, 97 HARV. L. REV. 1611, 1619–1676 (1984). [Back to text]
Act of Aug. 24, 1912, § 6, 37 Stat. 539, 555, codified as amended at 5 U.S.C. § 7513. The protection was circumscribed by the limited enforcement mechanisms under the Civil Service Commission, which were gradually strengthened. See Developments, supra, 97 HARV. L. REV., 1630–31. [Back to text]
92 Stat. 1111 (codified in scattered sections of titles 5, 10, 15, 28, 31, 38, 39, and 42 U.S.C.). For the long development, see, Developments, supra, 97 HARV. L. REV. at 1632–1650. [Back to text]
53 Stat. 1147, 1148 (1939), then 5 U.S.C. § 7324(a). The 1940 law, § 12(a), 54 Stat. 767–768, applied the same broad ban to employees of federally funded state and local agencies, but this provision was amended in 1974 to restrict state and local government employees in only one respect: running for public office in partisan elections. Act of Oct. 15, 1974, Pub. L. 93–443, § 401(a), 88 Stat. 1290, 5 U.S.C. § 1502. [Back to text]
330 U.S. 75 (1947). See also Civil Serv. Comm’n v. National Ass’n of Letter Carriers, 413 U.S. 548 (1973), in which the constitutional attack was renewed, in large part based on the Court’s expanding free speech jurisprudence, but the act was again sustained. A “little Hatch Act” of a state, applying to its employees, was sustained in Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601 (1973). [Back to text]
Pub. L. 103–94, § 2(a), 107 Stat. 1001 (1993), 5 U.S.C. §§ 73217326. Executive branch employees (except those appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate) who are listed in § 7323(b)(2), which generally include those employed by agencies involved in law enforcement or national security, remain under restrictions similar to the those in the old Hatch Act on taking an active part in political management or political campaigns. [Back to text]
53 Stat. 1147, 5 U.S.C. § 7311. [Back to text]
See Report of the Special Committee on The Federal Loyalty-Security Program, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (New York: 1956), 60. [Back to text]
5 U.S.C. § 3333. The loyalty disclaimer oath was declared unconstitutional in Stewart v. Washington, 301 F. Supp. 610 (D.D.C. 1969), and the did not appeal. The strike disclaimer oath was voided in National Ass’n of Letter Carriers v. Blount, 305 F. Supp. 546 (D.D.C. 1969); after noting probable jurisdiction, 397 U.S. 1062 (1970), the Court dismissed the appeal on the government’s motion. 400 U.S. 801 (1970). The actual prohibition on strikes, however, has been sustained. United Fed’n of Postal Clerks v. Blount, 325 F. Supp. 879 (D.D.C. 1971), aff ’d per curiam, 404 U.S. 802 (1971). [Back to text]
E.O. 9835, 12 Fed. Reg. 1935 (1947). [Back to text]
E.O. 10450, 18 Fed. Reg. 2489 (1953). [Back to text]
See generally, Report of the Special Committee on The Federal Loyalty-Security Program, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (New York: 1956). [Back to text]
Pub. L. 95–521, tits. I–III, 92 Stat. 1824–1861. The Act was originally codified in three different titles, 2, 5, and 28, corresponding to legislative, executive, and judicial branch personnel, but by Pub. L. 101–194, title II, 103 Stat. 1725 (1989), one comprehensive title, as amended, applying to all covered federal personnel was enacted. 5 U.S.C. App. §§ 101–111. [Back to text]
See Developments, supra, 97 HARV. L. REV. at 1660–1669. [Back to text]
97 Harv. L. Rev. at 1661 (citing S. REP. 170, 95th Cong., 2d sess. (1978), 21–22). [Back to text]
97 Harv. L. Rev. at 1664–69. The Ethics in Government Act also expanded restrictions on post-employment by imposing bans on employment, varying from a brief period to an out-and-out lifetime ban in certain cases. Id. at 1669–76. The 1989 revision enlarged and expanded on these provisions. 103 Stat. 1716–1724, amending 18 U.S.C. § 207. [Back to text]
92 Stat. 1864 (1978), as amended, 103 Stat. 1760 (1989), as amended, 5 U.S.C. App. § 501(b). [Back to text]
5 U.S.C. App. § 505(3). [Back to text]
United States v. NTEU, 513 U.S. 454, 477 (1995). [Back to text]
Shoemaker v. United States, 147 U.S. 282, 301 (1893). The Court noted that the additional duties at issue were “germane to the offices.” Id. [Back to text]
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 137, 155–56 (1803) (Chief Justice Marshall). Marshall’s statement that the appointment “is the act of the President,” conflicts with the more generally held and sensible view that when an appointment is made with its consent, the Senate shares the appointing power. 3 J. STORY, COMMENTARIES ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES 1525 (1833); In re Hennen, 38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 230, 259 (1839). [Back to text]
3 Ops. Atty. Gen. 188 (1837). [Back to text]
3 J. Story, supra at 1525–26; 5 WORKS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 161–62 (P. Ford ed., 1904); 9 WRITINGS OF JAMES MADISON 111–13 (G. Hunt ed., 1910). [Back to text]
286 U.S. 6 (1932). [Back to text]
E. Corwin, supra at 77. [Back to text]
272 U.S. 52 (1926). [Back to text]
19 Stat. 78, 80. [Back to text]
272 U.S. at 163–64. [Back to text]
The reticence of the Constitution respecting removal left room for four possibilities: first, the one suggested by the common law doctrine of “estate in office,” from which the conclusion followed that the impeachment power was the only power of removal intended by the Constitution; second, that the power of removal was an incident of the power of appointment and hence belonged, at any rate in the absence of legal or other provision to the contrary, to the appointing authority; third, that Congress could, by virtue of its power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper,” etc., determine the location of the removal power; fourth, that the President by virtue of his “executive power” and his duty “to take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” possesses the power of removal over all officers of the United States except judges. In the course of the debate on the act to establish a Department of Foreign Affairs (later changed to Department of State) all of these views were put forward, with the final result that a clause was incorporated in the measure that implied, as pointed out above, that the head of the department would be removable by the President at his discretion. Contemporaneously, and indeed until after the Civil War, this action by Congress, in other words “the decision of 1789,” was interpreted as establishing “a practical construction of the Constitution” with respect to executive officers appointed without stated terms. However, in the dominant opinion of those best authorized to speak on the subject, the “correct interpretation” of the Constitution was that the power of removal was always an incident of the power of appointment, and that therefore in the case of officers appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate the removal power was exercisable by the President only with the advice and consent of the Senate. For an extensive review of the issue at the time of Myers, see Corwin, The President’s Removal Power Under the Constitution, in 4 SELECTED ESSAYS ON CONSTITUTIONAL LAW [Back to text]
272 U.S. at 134. Note the parallelism of the arguments from separation-of-powers and the President’s ability to enforce the laws in the decision rendered on Congress’s effort to obtain a role in the actual appointment of executive officers in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 109–43 (1976), and in many of the subsequent separation-of-powers decisions. [Back to text]
ANNALS OF CONGRESS 611–612 (1789). [Back to text]
295 U.S. 602 (1935). The case is also styled Rathbun, Executor v. United States, Humphrey having, like Myers before him, died in the course of his suit for salary. Proponents of strong presidential powers long argued that Humphrey’s Executor, like A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935), both cases argued and decided contemporaneously, reflected the anti-New Deal views of a conservative Court and wrongfully departed from Myers. See Scalia, Historical Anomalies in Administrative Law, 1985 YEARBOOK OF THE SUPREME COURT HISTORICAL SOCIETY 103, 106–10. Now-Justice Scalia continues to adhere to his views and to Myers. Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 697, 707–11, 723–27 (1988) (dissenting). [Back to text]
295 U.S. at 627–29, 631–32. Justice Sutherland’s statement, quoted above, that a Federal Trade Commissioner “occupies no place in the executive department” was not necessary to the decision of the case, was altogether out of line with the same Justice’s reasoning in Springer v. Philippine Islands, 277 U.S. 189, 201–202 (1928), and seems later to have caused the author of it much perplexity. See R. CUSHMAN, THE INDEPENDENT REGULATORY COMMISSION 447–48 (1941). As Professor Cushman adds: “Every officer and agency created by Congress to carry laws into effect is an arm of Congress. . . . The term may be a synonym; it is not an argument.” Id. at 451. [Back to text]
357 U.S. 349 (1958). [Back to text]
28 U.S.C. § 516. [Back to text]
28 U.S.C. §§ 509, 510, 515, 533. [Back to text]
38 Fed. Reg. 14688 (1973). The Special Prosecutor’s status and duties were the subject of negotiation between the Administration and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Nomination of Elliot L. Richardson to be Attorney General: Hearings Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 93d Congress, 1st Sess. (1973), 143 passim. [Back to text]
The formal documents effectuating the result are set out in 9 Weekly Comp. Pres. Doc. 1271–1272 (1973). [Back to text]
38 Fed. Reg. 29466 (1973). The Office was shortly recreated and a new Special Prosecutor appointed. 38 Fed. Reg. 30739, as amended by 38 Fed. Reg. 32805. See Nomination of William B. Saxbe to be Attorney General: Hearings Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 93d Congress, 1st Sess. (1973). [Back to text]
Nader v. Bork, 366 F. Supp. 104 (D.D.C. 1973). [Back to text]
418 U.S. 683, 692–97 (1974). [Back to text]
The first question remained unstated, but the second issue was extensively debated in Special Prosecutor: Hearings Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 93d Congress, 1st Sess. (1973); Special Prosecutor and Watergate Grand Jury Legislation: Hearings Before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, 93d Congress, 1st Sess. (1973). [Back to text]
Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714 (1986); Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988). This is not to say that the language and analytical approach of Synar are not in conflict with that of Morrison; it is to say that the results are consistent and the analytical basis of the latter case does resolve the ambiguity present in some of the reservations in Synar. [Back to text]
478 U.S. 714 (1986). [Back to text]
The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, Pub. L. 99–177, 99 Stat. 1038. [Back to text]
478 U.S. at 729, 730. “By placing the responsibility for execution of the . . . Act in the hands of an officer who is subject to removal only by itself, Congress in effect has retained control over the execution of the Act and has intruded into the executive function.” Id. at 734. Because the Act contained contingency procedures for implementing the budget reductions in the event that the primary mechanism was invalidated, the Court rejected the suggestion that it should invalidate the 1921 removal provision rather than the Deficit Act’s conferral of executive power in the Comptroller General. To do so would frustrate congressional intention and significantly alter the Comptroller General’s office. Id. at 734–36. [Back to text]
478 U.S. at 726. [Back to text]
478 U.S. at 725 n.4. [Back to text]
487 U.S. 654 (1988). [Back to text]
Pub. L. 95–521, title VI, 92 Stat. 1867, as amended by Pub. L. 97–409, 96 Stat. 2039, and Pub. L. 100–191, 101 Stat. 1293, 28 U.S.C. §§ 49, 591et seq. [Back to text]
487 U.S. at 689–91. [Back to text]
But notice the analysis followed by three Justices in Public Citizen v. Department of Justice, 491 U.S. 440, 467, 482–89 (1989) (concurring), and consider the possible meaning of the recurrence to formalist reasoning in Granfinanciera, S.A. v. Nordberg, 492 U.S. 33, (1989). See also Justice Scalia’s use of the Take Care Clause in pronouncing limits on Congress’s constitutional power to confer citizen standing in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 505 U.S. 555, 576–78 (1992), although it is not clear that he had a majority of the Court with him. [Back to text]
Indeed, the Court explicitly analogized the civil enforcement powers of the independent agencies to the prosecutorial powers wielded by the independent counsel. Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 692 n.31 (1988). [Back to text]
United States v. Perkins, 116 U.S. 483 (1886), cited with approval in Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 161–163, 164 (1926), and Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654, 689 n.27 (1988). [Back to text]
561 U.S. ___, No. 08–861, slip op. (2010). [Back to text]
The case involved the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a private non-profit entity with a five-member board, that has significant authority over accounting firms that participate in auditing public companies. The board members are appointed to staggered 5-year terms by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and can only be removed for “good cause shown,” which requires a finding of either a violation of securities laws or board rules, willful abuse of power, or failure to enforce compliance with the rules governing registered public accounting firms. 15 U.S.C. § 7217(d)(3). The members of the Commission, in turn, can only be removed by the President for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office. [Back to text]
561 U.S. ___, No. 08–861, slip op. at 14–15 (2010). [Back to text]
Parsons v. United States, 167 U.S. 324 (1897). [Back to text]
Shurtleff v. United States, 189 U.S. 311 (1903). [Back to text]
Blake v. United States, 103 U.S. 227 (1881); Quackenbush v. United States, 177 U.S. 20 (1900); Wallace v. United States, 257 U.S. 541 (1922). [Back to text]
Morgan v. TVA, 28 F. Supp. 732 (E.D. Tenn. 1939), aff’d, 115 F.2d 990 (6th Cir. 1940), cert. denied, 312 U.S. 701 (1941). [Back to text]
E.g., 6 Ops. Atty. Gen. 220 (1853); In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1 (1890). [Back to text]
United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303 (1946). [Back to text]
E.g., 2 J. Richardson, supra at 847. [Back to text]
United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303, 313 (1946). [Back to text]
For a good statement of the basis of the doctrine, the areas in which it is asserted, and historical examples, see Executive Privilege: The Withholding of Information by the Executive: Hearings Before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, 92d Congress, 1st Sess. (1971), 420–43, (then-Assistant Attorney General Rehnquist). Former Attorney General Rogers, in stating the position of the Eisenhower Administration, identified five categories of executive privilege: (1) military and diplomatic secrets and foreign affairs, (2) information made confidential by statute, (3) information relating to pending litigation, and investigative files and reports, (4) information relating to internal government affairs privileged from disclosure in the public interest, and (5) records incidental to the making of policy, including interdepartmental memoranda, advisory opinions, recommendations of subordinates, and informal working papers. The Power of the President To Withhold Information from the Congress, Memorandum of the Attorney General, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, 85th Congress, 2d Sess. (Comm. Print) (1958), reprinted as Rogers, Constitutional Law: The Papers of the Executive Branch, 44 A.B.A.J. 941 (1958). In the most expansive version of the doctrine, Attorney General Kleindienst argued that the President could assert the privilege as to any employee of the Federal Government to keep secret any information at all. Executive Privilege, Secrecy in Government, Freedom of Information: Hearings Before the Senate Government Operations Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations, 93d Congress, 1st Sess. (1973), I:18 passim. For a strong argument that the doctrine lacks any constitutional or other legal basis, see R. BERGER, EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE: A CONSTITUTIONAL MYTH (1974). The book, however, precedes the Court decision in Nixon. [Back to text]
There are also, of course, instances of claimed access for other purposes, for which the Freedom of Information Act, 80 Stat. 383 (1966), 5 U.S.C. § 552, provides generally for public access to governmental documents. In 522(b), however, nine types of information are exempted from coverage, several of which relate to the types as to which executive privilege has been asserted, such as matter classified pursuant to executive order, interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters, and law enforcement investigatory files. See, e.g., EPA v. Mink, 410 U.S. 73 (1973); FTC v. Grolier, Inc., 462 U.S. 19 (1983); CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159 (1985); John Doe Agency v. John Doe Corp., 493 U.S. 146 (1989); Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1974). [Back to text]
See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and Rule 16, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The earliest judicial dispute involving what later became known as executive privilege arose in United States v. Burr, 25 F. Cas. 30 and 187 (C.C.D. Va. 1807), in which defendant sought certain exculpatory material from President Jefferson. Dispute continues with regard to the extent of presidential compliance, but it appears that the President was in substantial compliance with outstanding orders if not in full compliance. [Back to text]
E.g., Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165 (1968). [Back to text]
Thus, defendant in United States v. Ehrlichman, 376 F. Supp. 29 (D.D.C. 1974), was held entitled to access to material in the custody of the President wherein the President’s decision to dismiss the prosecution would probably have been unavailing. [Back to text]
345 U.S. 1 (1953). [Back to text]
345 U.S. at 7–8, 9–10, 11. Withholding of information relating to governmental employees’ clearances, disciplines, or discharges often raises claims of such privilege. E.g., Webster v. Doe, 486 U.S. 592 (1988); Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988). After the Court approved a governmental secrecy agreement imposed on CIA employees, Snepp v. United States, 444 U.S. 507 (1980), the government expanded its secrecy program with respect to classified and “classifiable” information. When Congress sought to curb this policy, the Reagan Administration convinced a federal district judge to declare the restrictions void as invasive of the President’s constitutional power to manage the executive. National Fed’n of Fed. Employees v. United States, 688 F. Supp. 671 (D.D.C. 1988), vacated and remanded sub nom. American Foreign Service Ass’n v. Garfinkel, 490 U.S. 153 (1989). For similar assertions in the context of plaintiffs suing the government for interference with their civil and political rights during the protests against the Vietnam War, in which the plaintiffs were generally denied the information in the possession of the government under the state-secrets privilege, see Halkin v. Helms, 598 F.2d 1 (D.C. Cir. 1978); Ellsberg v. Mitchell, 709 F.2d 51 (D.C. Cir. 1983). For review and analysis, see Quint, The Separation of Powers Under Carter, 62 TEX. L. REV. 785, 875–80 (1984). [Back to text]
Reynolds, 345 U.S. at 11, n.26. [Back to text]
92 U.S. 105, 107 (1875). See also Tenet v. Doe, 544 U.S. 1, 9 (2005) (reiterating and applying Totten’s “broader holding that lawsuits premised on alleged espionage agreements are altogether forbidden”). The Court in Tenet distinguished Webster v. Doe on the basis of “an obvious difference . . . between a suit brought by an acknowledged (though covert) employee of the CIA and one filed by an alleged former spy.” Id. at 10. [Back to text]
United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 692–97 (1974). [Back to text]
418 U.S. at 707–08. Presumably, the opinion recognizes a similar power in the federal courts to preserve the confidentiality of judicial deliberations, cf. New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713, 752 n.3 (1971) (Chief Justice Burger dissenting), and in each house of Congress to treat many of its papers and documents as privileged. Cf. Soucie v. David, 448 F.2d 1067, 1080, 1081–1982 (C.A.D.C. 1971) (Judge Wilkey concurring); Military Cold War Escalation and Speech Review Policies: Hearings Before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, 87th Congress, 2d Sess. (1962), 512 (Senator Stennis). See Calley v. Callaway, 519 F.2d 184 (5th Cir. 1975) (en banc), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 911 (1976); United States v. Ehrlichman, 389 F. Supp. 95 (D.D.C. 1974). [Back to text]
418 U.S. 683, 711–13. Essentially the same decision had been arrived at in the context of subpoenas of tapes and documentary evidence for use before a grand jury in Nixon v. Sirica, 487 F.2d 700 (D.C. Cir. 1973). [Back to text]
433 U.S. 425, 446–55 (1977). See id. at 504, 545 (Chief Justice Burger and Justice Rehnquist dissenting). The decision does resolve one outstanding question: assertion of the privilege is not limited to incumbent Presidents. Id. at 447–49. Subsequently, a court held that former-President Nixon had had such a property expectancy in his papers that he was entitled to compensation for their seizure under the Act. Nixon v. United States, 978 F.2d 1269 (D.C. Cir. 1992). [Back to text]
433 U.S. at 452. [Back to text]
Cheney v. United States District Court, 542 U.S. 367 (2004). [Back to text]
Although the information sought in Nixon was important to “the constitutional need for production of relevant evidence in a criminal proceeding,” the suit against the Vice President was civil, and withholding the information “does not hamper another branch’s ability to perform its ‘essential functions.’ ” 542 U.S. at 383, 384. [Back to text]
The Court recognized “the paramount necessity of protecting the Executive Branch from vexatious litigation that might distract it from the energetic performance of its constitutional duties.” 542 U.S. at 382. But cf. Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 702 (1997). [Back to text]
See the extensive discussion in Shane, Legal Disagreement and Negotiation in a Government of Laws: The Case of Executive Privilege Claims Against Congress, 71 MINN. L. REV. 461 (1987). [Back to text]
Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities v. Nixon, 370 F. Supp. 521 (D.D.C.), aff’d, 498 F.2d 725 (D.C. Cir. 1974). [Back to text]
President Nixon’s position was set out in a June 9, 1974, letter to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 10 Wkly. Comp. Pres. Docs. 592 (1974). The impeachment article and supporting material are set out in H. REP. NO. 93–1305, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. (1974). [Back to text]
For consideration of various proposals by which Congress might proceed, see Hamilton & Grabow, A Legislative Proposal for Resolving Executive Privilege Disputes Precipitated by Congressional Subpoenas, 21 HARV. J. LEGIS. 145 (1984); Brand & Connelly, Constitutional Confrontations: Preserving a Prompt and Orderly Means by Which Congress May Enforce Investigative Demands Against Executive Branch Officials, 36 CATH. U. L. REV. 71 (1986); Note, The Conflict Between Executive Privilege and Congressional Oversight: The Gorsuch Controversy, 1983 DUKE L. J. 1333. [Back to text]