(Pix source HERE)
Those of you who follow my academic blog, Law at the End of the Day, have seen recent posting of PowerPoints through which I tried to synthesize the essence of the sub-systems that together make up the U.S. legal system. In the process I have tried to capture for foreign lawyers the essence of the core values of American ideologies (of fairness and other baseline political principles), which are inscribed in quite different ways in the law.
One of the areas that struck my students as most curious was that of the ideologies and practice around administrative regulation. The idea of discretion as a legal tool (outside of dictatorships and Marxist Leninist States) seemed curious. They might have treated those as political acts rather than the application of law. More curious still was the way that only recently, the Supreme Court reinforced a set of core principles through which the courts would review and if necessary overturn discretionary decisionmaking that appears to be arbitrary, capricious, or a hidden pretense. They found it interesting to see the way that such principled constraints on exercises of discretion, even when undertaken by officials holding the highest appointed offices, could bve used to undermine important policy choices made at the highest levels of state.
The case, of course, was the "Census Question" case: Department of Commerce v. New York, U.S. Supreme Court No. 18-966 Slip op. (Decided June 27, 2019). The PowerPoints may be accessed here. And
What struck me more as I sought to lecture through this a as matter of public law--was the way that such constraints might well exposes the laww-less-ness of private administrators, and especially those in the academy. Not to say that they are born bad; but merely to suggest, as the Supreme Court has just done in relation to the Secretary of Commerce, that no mere instrumentality of the administrative apparatus--public or private--ought to exist within an environment in which the core principles of fairness built into American law appear absent.
This post considers the great principles of checks on administrative discretion and the principles underlying them (hopefully written simply and not for lawyers). It then poses the question: to what extent do the great role models of the American Republic; to what extent to those institutions which put themselves out as the forms of social, political, and economic organization that embraces wholeheartedly the core values of this nation; to what extent to the people in control of that apparatus feel the weight of responsibility for their discretionary decisionmaking reinforced by principles and outside robust checks?
I pose a null hypothesis--university administrators have no real constraints on the exercise of their discretion within the university that is effective, reliable, fair, or readily available to those against whom discretion is exercised. "The null hypothesis, H0 is the commonly accepted fact; it is the opposite of the alternate hypothesis. Researchers work to reject, nullify or disprove the null hypothesis. Researchers come up with an alternate hypothesis, one that they think explains a phenomenon, and then work to reject the null hypothesis." (See here). I would dearly love to see that null hypothesis disproven--and not by incantation from above.