Humphrey’s Executor and Presidential Removal Power

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In one of its most significant separation of powers opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Humphrey’s Executor v. United States 87 years ago, in which it held that President Roosevelt’s authority to remove a commissioner that his predecessor nominated and the Senate confirmed to the Federal Trade Commission was not “illimitable” under the Constitution.  The Court held that the President’s discretion to remove the commissioner based on his differing policy views was bounded by the Federal Trade Commission Act’s limitation on removal only for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office." 

Humphrey’s continues to have significant implications today, in cases like FTC v. Walmart (N.D. Ill.) where Walmart has argued that by virtue of Humphrey’s, the “quintessentially executive law-enforcement power” that the FTC has under its authorizing statute is unconstitutional because its commissioners are not removable at will by the President. 

This teleforum will analyze the contemporary implications of Humphrey’s and its continuing vitality in U.S. Supreme Court’s administrative law jurisprudence.



  • Gregory Dolin, Senior Litigation Counsel, New Civil Liberties Alliance
  • Daniel Z. Epstein, Director, Trust Ventures
  • Roger Severino, Vice President, Domestic Policy and The Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
  • Kimberly Wehle, Professor of Law, University of Baltimore Law School; Visiting Professor, Washington College of Law, American University
  • [Moderator] Aram A. Gavoor, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professorial Lecturer in Law, the George Washington University Law School


As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.