With many of us having a keen interest in law and courts or law and politics, I thought I would post a couple of papers from one of my esteemed colleagues, Kristin Hickman, who is doing some nice empirical work in other areas of law: the tax and administrative law fields. The abstracts of the articles follow:
1. Kristin Hickman, Coloring Outside the Lines: Examining Treasury's (Lack of) Compliance With Administrative Procedure Act Rulemaking Requirements, 82 Notre Dame Law Review ___ (2007), click here for SSRN link.
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have a strange relationship with Administrative Procedure Act notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures. Treasury acknowledges the general applicability of APA procedural requirements when it promulgates regulations interpreting the Internal Revenue Code. Treasury also maintains that most Treasury regulations are exempt from the APA's public notice and comment requirements. Nevertheless, Treasury purports to utilize those same procedures anyway in promulgating most Treasury regulations.
This Article documents a study of 232 separate Treasury regulation projects for which Treasury published Treasury Decisions and notices of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2005. In connection with this study, this Article compares Treasury's actual practices and exemption claims with current doctrinal trends in courts evaluating compliance with APA requirements across administrative agencies.
The Article documents the study's finding that, in 40.9% of the projects studied, Treasury failed to follow APA notice and comment requirements. The Article also concludes that, as interpreted by the courts, established exceptions from those requirements generally do not apply to excuse this noncompliance. Consequently, among other implications, many Treasury regulations, including some of Treasury's most complex and controversial rulemaking efforts, are susceptible to legal challenge for failure to adhere to APA rulemaking requirements.
2. Kristin Hickman & Matt Krueger, In Search of the Modern Skidmore Standard, 108 Columbia Law Review ____ (forthcoming 2007), click here for SSRN link.
This Article offers a comprehensive examination of the Skidmore standard for judicial review of agency legal interpretations as applied by the courts in the period since the Supreme Court revitalized Skidmore in United States v. Mead Corp. First, the Article documents an empirical study of five years worth of Skidmore applications in the federal courts of appeals. In the study, we evaluate two competing conceptions of Skidmore review - the independent judgment model and the theoretically more deferential sliding-scale model - and conclude that the appellate courts overwhelmingly follow the sliding scale approach. Also, contrary to two other, significantly more limited studies, we document that Skidmore review is highly deferential to agency interpretations of law, with agency interpretations prevailing in more than 60% of Skidmore applications. Drawing from the Skidmore applications studied, we then analyze more qualitatively how the appellate courts apply the Skidmore review standard as a sliding scale and identify where those courts are struggling to make sense of Skidmore's dictates within that model. To resolve the lower courts' difficulties, we propose reconceptualizing Skidmore's sliding scale as balancing comparative agency expertise against the potential for agency arbitrariness. Finally, we note several burgeoning issues concerning the scope of Skidmore's applicability and offer preliminary thoughts for addressing those questions.