January 22, 2019

“Is Administrative Law Unlawful?”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I am reading law Prof. Hamburger’s “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?” and he makes the case that administrative law is not new rather it is the old King’s absolute prerogative reborn, the same prerogative that the Framers sought to prevent with the Constitution’s system of divided government.

He sets out how administrative law is extra-legal (outside the law), supra-legal (above the law) and, because it is not limited by the Constitution, it is unlimited in power. That is, it is no different than the unlimited power of the King.

Notwithstanding a few cases that attempt to rein in the administrative state, there seems to be in Texas a conscious and clever effort at the legislative and administrative code level to protect the unlimited power of the administrative state from constitutional limitations.

In this first example, in order to test some of this thinking, let’s take a very extreme and hopefully very unlikely example. Assume that the administrative code says that anyone who fails to pay an administrative fine by the 10th day after issuance by the agent shall be lined up and shot by firing squad. (If you think this is too far out, consider Obama’s man who used Roman crucifixion of Christians as a parable to guide the mind set for those involved in environmental enforcement.)

At this point in our jurisprudence most can readily state that such a code provision violates Constitutional guarantees of substantive due process that protect our human right to life. But if today’s Administrative Code set out such a punishment, where would such an issue be litigated? Apparently, Travis County, Texas, in the administrative court system.

In this second example, let’s assume something more regular, for example, where the administrative code says that the owner of property shall submit to a central control of private property regulation of some sort or pay a daily fine of $10,000.00. One can argue that this administrative process creates its own ad hoc condemnation process whereby the rights of groundwater owners are denied for the “greater common good”, an argument that is made by the Office of Public (Government Ownership) Interest Counsel in administrative hearings.

Others might pick a better suited example.

[Please note that enforcement agents might well be violating an old common law prohibition against the combination of the duties of the Sheriff with the duties of the Judge. Such administrative law provisions destroy the ancient safeguard of the impartiality of the Judge who is supposed to hold the Sheriff to a burden of proof and to determine the innocence or the guilt and punishment. Today’s administrative law judges are there to simply rubber stamp the regularity of the combined actions of the enforcement agent.]

With regard to this second example, some argue that administrative central control of private property is not a clear violation of the Constitutional prohibition against takings without just compensation. Balderdash. Central control abolishes private property. In 1958 J. Edgar Hoover said that our exceptionalism is America’s exception from Communism. The exceptionalism that provides our great wealth comes from private control of property. Karl Marx wrote of the central control of private property and the modes of production similarly. Last two pages Chap. Two Communist Manifesto, 1848.

I suspect that 60 years ago or so an extreme example of administrative law would be what we are seeing today, the illegitimate supplanting of an administrative process for the Condemnation process. So, let’s jump to an example that might seem extreme today: violation of the prohibition against the establishment of a state religion.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I’ve had the passing thought, and I am not the only one who has noticed, that the fervor of the environmentalists and some adherents to Gaia as Mother Earth resembles a religion. Some might argue that we have already reached the point of an established de facto state religion in the environment (which is conceptually indistinguishable from Marx’ eschatological concept of the utopian commune), that is, earth and animal liberation and their derivatives embodied in legislation such as the 1973 Endangered Species Act together with corresponding overreaching administrative provisions.

If the power of the Administrative State is truly unlimited, then how many other provisions can be violated?

And where will those issues be litigated?

And, how much longer can the judicial branch safely ignore the holding in Jones v. Ross that states: “It is fundamental that the Constitution is the paramount law of the state and cannot be altered by legislative amendments.” 173 S.W. 2d 1022, 1024 (Tex. 1943).

Livy writes from a bunkhouse on the southern high plains of Texas.