From the neo-Weberian literature on state-building and the political sociology of the legal profession, one might expect government lawyers to be sheepdogs, nipping at the heels of straying administrators, supplying their agencies with the bureaucratic autonomy so often missing in American government. In this working paper, prepared for “Opportunities for Law's Intellectual History," a conference sponsored by Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, October 10-11, 2014, I report my preliminary findings for two agencies created during the Hundred Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and the National Recovery Administration. I suggest that the neo-Weberian model tends to minimize the lawyers’ agency as political actors. In particular, the New Deal lawyers’ projection of their own preferences upon general statutory delegations of legislative power, which they then interpreted authoritatively, could make them less the faithful agents of their master’s voice than ventriloquists in pursuit of their own political agenda.
Scholarly Commons Citation
Ernst, Daniel R., "Of Sheepdogs and Ventriloquists: Government Lawyers in Two New Deal Agencies" (2015). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1461.