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Suing the President: Nonstatutory Review Revisited

Jonathan R. Siegel
Columbia Law Review
Vol. 97, No. 6 (Oct., 1997), pp. 1612-1709
DOI: 10.2307/1123388
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1123388
Page Count: 98
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Suing the President: Nonstatutory Review Revisited
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Abstract

The Supreme Court recently determined that the President of the United States is not an "agency" within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act and that his actions are not subject to review under that statute. The Court has, moreover, traditionally held that a federal court may not entertain a suit seeking an injunction directed at the President. The Court's cases raise the question of whether courts can provide any relief for persons injured when the President acts unlawfully. Professor Siegel answers this question by considering a venerable, but now little-known, method of judicial control over executive action, called "nonstatutory review." Courts used this form of suit to review executive branch behavior long before the APA existed. The nonstatutory review action avoids the sovereign immunity of the United States by making the fictional assumption that a suit against a government officer, alleging unlawful official behavior, is not a suit against the government. Professor Siegel's examination of the history of nonstatutory review reveals that the President, like other federal officials, should be subject to suits concerning his official conduct. It demonstrates that the courts have traditionally taken a leading role in the creation of remedies against unlawful government action; courts need not wait for Congress to create statutory remedies. Finally, the history of nonstatutory review provides an instructive look at the use of fictions as a method of legal development.

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