State Farm ‘with Teeth’: Heightened Judicial Review in the Absence of Executive Oversight

Editor’s Note: An interview with Professor Sharkey about the forthcoming paper is available here.

From: New York University Law Review, Vol. 89, 2014/NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 14-15

Catherine M. Sharkey,New York University School of Law


While courts and commentators have considered the information-forcing role of executive oversight and judicial review of agency action, the dynamic relationship between the two has yet to be considered. This Article presents a novel justification for heightened judicial scrutiny in the absence of meaningful executive oversight, premised on a reasoned decision-making basis. Judicial review of certain types of agency determinations should be more stringent because those determinations have not been vetted by executive oversight and are thus less likely to be premised on reasons backed by empirical support. Agency cost-benefit analyses and agency conflict preemption determinations—two realms rarely if ever considered together—are compared in terms of their reliance on underlying factual predicates and contrasted in terms of the existing framework for executive oversight and judicial review of agency determinations. A heightened judicial review standard—what I term “State Farm with teeth”—should guide courts’ evaluations of the cost-benefit analyses performed by independent agencies not subject to executive oversight. This Article is the first to draw the distinction between independent and executive agencies in the State Farm hard-look context. It is also the first to explore the recent Business Roundtable decision by the D.C. Circuit through this analytical lens. The stringent “State Farm with teeth” standard should likewise be applied to judicial review of agency determinations of conflict preemption made in the absence of executive oversight. As this Article discusses, recent developments involving the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s preemption assertions regarding state banking laws provide a compelling illustration of why this should be so. This Article also points to a potential new information-forcing role for Congress. Using the Dodd-Frank Act as an illustration, this Article shows how Congress can set parameters for judicial review of administrative agencies’ fact-based conflict preemption determinations.

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