Becker Friedman Institute
for Research in Economics
The University of Chicago

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Administrative Severability Clauses

April 2015
Charles W. Tyler, Donald Elliott

Severability clauses can help administrative agencies minimize the damage caused by judicial review and can make the regulatory environment more efficient, participatory, and predictable. Yet agencies rarely include these clauses in their rules because courts tend to treat administrative rules with severability clauses the same as those without. Courts have treated administrative severability clauses in this way largely because they have mistakenly analogized them to severability clauses contained in statutes. While Congress routinely includes severability clauses in statutes that are drafted in distinct iterations, by different committees with legislative staff who often lack the time and expertise to consider the clauses’ potential ramifications, administrative agencies use these clauses with more care. This Article proposes a Chevron-style deference framework for administrative severability clauses. Under this framework, after a reviewing court has set aside a challenged regulatory provision, the court should defer to a promulgating agency’s opinion on severability as expressed through a severability clause, unless the remainder of the rule itself would suffer from legal defects resulting from the court’s invalidation of the challenged provisions. This framework would better promote the overarching goals of administrative law than do current judicial doctrine and agency practice.

Publication Type: 
The Yale Law Journal