2006 Archive

Boalt Research to Investigate Separation of Powers and Federal Agency Staff Turnover

Boalt will soon be home to an extensive database on federal administrative agency leaders in the United States thanks to a grant from the Hellman Family Faculty Fund. Assistant Professor Anne Joseph received a $39,000 award to support the collection of data about federal appointees over the past four presidential administrations, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.

According to Joseph, the number of officials and their impact is no small matter. Over 1,000 Senate-confirmed presidential appointees help run the vast federal bureaucracy, which does more "lawmaking" and "judging" than Congress and the federal courts combined. During the first session of the 107th Congress (2001), Congress passed 21 major statutes and 115 other public laws. In contrast, cabinet departments, the Executive Office of the President and independent agencies published 70 significant rules and over 3,000 other rules. The tenure of agency leaders, however, is far shorter than the longevity of members of Congress and the federal judiciary—and that contrast has drawn scholars' attention.

Joseph, an expert in political economy, has a keen interest in federal oversight and auditing. Her current focus is the interaction of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government in regard to the tenure of federal officials. She's hopeful that her research project will help scholars assess questions regarding where the greatest power lies in the oversight of federal officials. "In addition to collecting and analyzing information about key federal officials, the project potentially has larger implications for separation of powers and the democratic legitimacy of the administrative state," says Joseph.
The Hellman-funded project will support law students and undergraduate research assistants who work with Joseph on the project to encode data about federal officials, their terms of service and accomplishments.