Friday, November 1, 2013

Bowsher v. Synar case brief

Bowsher v. Synar case brief summary
478 U.S. 714 (1986)

Petitioner Comptroller General of the United States challenged a judgment from the United States District Court, District of Columbia, which held that the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, 2 U.S.C.S. § 901 et seq., violated separation of powers as the statute delegated executive powers to an officer under Congress' direct control.

Congress passed the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, under which the Comptroller General was responsible for preparing and submitting to the President a report specifying deficit reductions for a fiscal year. The President in turn was to order the reductions specified by the Comptroller General. The Comptroller General was removable from office only by Congress. Respondents, Congressmen and others, initiated an action challenging the Act's constitutionality. The trial court ruled that the Comptroller General's role in the deficit reduction process violated the constitutionally imposed separation of powers.

  • On direct appeal, the court affirmed. Responsibility for execution of the Act was placed in the hands of the Comptroller General. 
  • Congress retained control over such execution and thus intruded into the executive function in violation of separation of powers. 
  • The Act was unconstitutional because it gave the Comptroller General, an officer of the legislative branch over whom Congress retained removal power, the ultimate authority to determine the budget cuts to be made, functions plainly entailing execution of the law in constitutional terms.

The court affirmed that the Act violated the separation of powers doctrine.

Recommended Supplements for Administrative Law Examples & Explanations: Administrative Law, Fourth Edition
Administrative Law and Process: In a Nutshell (Nutshell Series)

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