• Last updated on November 11, 2022

By overturning congressional use of the legislative veto, the Supreme Court, in this single decision, overturned more combined laws than it had in its entire history.

Jagdish Chadha, a Kenyan of Asian Indian descent carrying a British passport, entered the United States on a student visa in the 1960’s. When his student visa expired, he was denied reentry into either Britain or Kenya and applied for permanent residency in the United States. After lengthy deliberations, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) granted his application to stay, only to have the House of Representatives veto the INS decision, leaving Chadha to face deportation.Legislative vetoSeparation of powers;Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha[Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha]Legislative veto

Both liberals and conservatives saw the case as a chance to overcome the burgeoning practice of Congress passing laws containing legislative veto provisions. These enactments allowed one or both houses of Congress to act jointly or independently to cancel executive branch regulations made pursuant to some vague delegation of power.

Liberal public interest groups played the more public role as Ralph Nader’s consumer advocate litigation group took over Chadha’s case in the Supreme Court. The liberal public interest group’s interest in the case stemmed from the explosion of congressional enactments of legislative vetoes. After having fought for the passage of regulatory legislation on the environment, consumer protection, worker safety, or similar causes, these liberal groups often were frustrated by the bureaucratic regulatory process. If they succeeded in the bureaucracy, they then were frustrated by the actions of their more wealthy opponents, who would persuade one or both houses of Congress to kill offending regulations with a legislative veto. Those conservatives who opposed both excessive delegations of power and legislative vetoes had no apparent vehicle for participation.

Conservative Chief Justice Warren E. BurgerBurger, Warren E.;Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha[Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha] wrote the 7-2 majority opinion, which cut across liberal and conservative opinion and ended the use of the congressional veto. A moderate Lewis F. Powell, Jr., concurred. Moderately conservative Justice Byron R. White dissented, upholding the use of legislative vetoes, and conservative Justice William H. Rehnquist also dissented. The diversity of opinion continues. The Court seemed willing to push further in the direction of Chadha in Bowsher v. Synar[case]Bowsher v. Synar[Bowsher v. Synar] (1986), but seemed to withdraw from Chadha’s advanced stand in Morrison v. Olson[case]Morrison v. Olson[Morrison v. Olson] (1988) and Mistretta v. United States[case]Mistretta v. United States[Mistretta v. United States] (1989).

Bowsher v. Synar

Delegation of powers

Immigration law

Mistretta v. United States

Morrison v. Olson

Separation of powers

Categories: History