73 Fla. L. Rev. 31 (2021)
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Constitutional Law


Since its earliest days, Congress has delegated lawmaking authority
to Executive Branch officials. Over time, a body of Supreme Court
caselaw, known as the Delegation Doctrine, has grown up (ostensibly) to
regulate Congress’s ability to offload legislative authority to
administrative agencies. Occasionally, however, Congress, like state
legislatures and municipal councils, bypasses executive officials and
directly delegates lawmaking power to private parties. The Supreme
Court has addressed those delegations in only a few cases and struck
down three of them, the last one in 1936 in Carter v. Carter Coal Co. In
those cases, the Court did not rely on the Article I Vesting Clause or
separation of powers principles, as it has in the case of delegations to
administrative agencies. Instead, the Court held the delegations
unconstitutional by invoking the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments. Nonetheless, the Court did not explain why the
Due Process Clauses played that role, and the Court has not offered a
rationale for its rulings since 1936. Perhaps the reason for that omission
is that the Court’s contemporary “procedure vs. substance” dichotomy
has obscured the original meaning of the Due Process Clause: namely, a
guarantee that the government comply with “the law of the land” before
trespassing on someone’s life, liberty, or property. That guarantee, which
reaches back to Chapter 39 of Magna Carta, means that the government
cannot legislate around the Constitution by empowering a private party
to act in a lawless fashion. Put differently, Congress cannot escape
constitutional restraints by delegating government authority to private
parties to accomplish indirectly what Congress cannot do directly. So
viewed, the Private Delegation Doctrine continues to have vitality today in areas such as the constitutionality of the dynamic incorporation of
private or foreign rules and private jails or prisons.