How a radical court ruling hurts strong US presidents

The Washington, D.C. federal appeals court decision to void President Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board is a blow at presidential power that goes far beyond labor-management issues, says Denise M. Keyser, partnre at Philadelphia-based corporate law firm Ballard Spahr. Opinion here.

"This is a huge decision. This has potential to paralyze big sections of the government," says Denise M. Keyser, who represents corporate employers and bosses in fights against labor unions.

"If it is affirmed on appeal to the Supreme Court, or by other districts, it potentially changes the way the United States Government has done business for more than 100 years," she told me, and will force Presidents to compromise a lot more than they already do in hiring replacement managers for many government offices. 

The DC District Court ruled that recess appointments are only Constitutional if the jobs go vacant and get filled in the brief periods before a newly-elected Congress takes office -- not every time Congress goes on vacation.

"Obama, Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1, Reagan, Carter, all of them made hundreds of recess appointments," mostly during relatively short Congressional breaks, Keyser noted. "This would change the whole way the government has been operating."

The circuit court's decision will be challenged -- my colleague Jeff Gelles says there are strong legal challenges already marching.

To Keyser it looks like it was written with the current conservative court in mind: "They wrote this citing George Washington and Marbury v. Madison to appeal to the current court," she told me.

The decision was applauded by Republican congressional leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell, who filed an amicus brief in support of the winning position. But "this is going to impact how Republian presidents run their administration as well," Keyser added. "It may make it much more difficult to fill those offices."