An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

The National Labor Relations Board found that Noel Canning, a bottling company in Washington State, violated federal labor laws. Noel Canning argued that the judgment was invalid because the NLRB lacked a quorum. Specifically, the firm contended that President Obama’s three appointments to the NLRB were not made during “the recess of the Senate,” as required by Article II, Section 2, Clause 3.

The Supreme Court agreed. NLRB v. Noel Canning ruled unanimously that President Obama’s appointments were unconstitutional because they were not made during “the recess of the Senate.” However, the Court divided 5-4 on exactly why the appointments were invalid. Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Justice Scalia wrote an opinion concurring in judgment, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito and Thomas. They agreed that the recess appointments in this case were unconstitutional, but they disagreed on three important questions about the Recess Appointments Clause.

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