74 Fla. L. Rev. 729 (2022)
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Constitutional LawJurisprudence


The presumption of regularity is an imprecise principle that federal courts apply in varying ways to presume federal officers and employees lawfully and consistently discharge their official duties. The presumption gained national significance during the Trump Administration in several key cases in which it was implicated, but the contours of the presumption were never described by the Supreme Court of the United States. While literature and judicial opinions have invoked the presumption, there has been sparse scholarly accounting for its contours, value, and legitimacy. This Article is the first to trace the contemporary domain of the presumption and its applications from its pre–Founding Era source. This Article finds that because of the Supreme Court’s failure to squarely articulate the presumption and its limiting principles, courts have applied it in at least fourteen distinct ways. This Article also argues that the presumption of regularity is inaccurately conflated with the presumption of good faith and that several aspects of its modern uses violate separation of powers principles and the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. This Article concludes by making the case that the Supreme Court or Congress should articulate a lawful, historically supported, and sensible doctrinal standard for the presumption of regularity to benefit each of the branches of the federal government and the American public.