The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the CFPB leadership structure violates the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

In Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, the Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, stated that "the CFPB's single-Director configuration is incompatible with our constitutional structure." The Chief Justice, joined by Justices Samuel Anthony Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, wrote that the "only constitutional defect we have identified in the CFPB's structure is the Director's insulation from removal [in 12 U.S.C. 5491(c)]." The majority found that provision to be severable from the other provisions of Dodd-Frank establishing the CFPB. On severability, four Justices (Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor) who dissented on the primary holding concurred in the judgment.

As a result, the CFPB director is removable at will by the President.


As Justice Thomas summarizes in a concurring opinion, the Chief Justice's opinion effectively cabins the use of independent agencies, as contemplated from Humphrey's Executor (1935) to "multimember expert agencies that do not wield substantial executive power." Justice Thomas (not surprisingly for longtime readers of his writing) would have gone further and overruled Humphrey's. He questioned the very concept of "independent agencies" as a "fourth branch of Government." His opinion and Justice Kagan's dissent are good reads for constitutional and administrative law junkies in particular; each builds on longstanding (and well-articulated) views that present fundamentally different conceptions of the structure of our government.

Primary Sources

  1. Seila Law LLC v. CFPB: Court Decision

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