All nine justices reject recess appointments in Noel Canning case

June 26

The Supreme Court has issued yet another opinion unanimous in the judgmentNoel Canning v. NLRB.  All nine justices conclude that President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were invalid.  Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court, rests on the conclusion that the Senate’s pro forma sessions were valid and the Senate was not in recess.  Four of the justices — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — would have gone farther.  The opinion is here.  More commentary later.

UPDATE: A few quick observations.  First, the central holding of the opinion for the Court is that the Senate gets to determine when the Senate is in recess, provided the recess is of sufficient length.  This is significant in that it gives Congress the ability to prevent recess appointments.

Second, none of the justices were willing to accept the position of the Obama Administration, which was unnecessarily extreme. In choosing the make the recess appointments in the way it did, such as by not following precedents set by prior administrations (including Teddy Roosevelt) and filling some Board spots that the Senate never had time to fill, the Administration adopted a stance that was very hard to defend, so it could not attract a single vote.

Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in constitutional, administrative, and environmental law at the Case Western University School of Law, where he is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation.
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