Bureaucratic resistance is a historically unexceptional feature of the administrative state. What is striking is the extent to which it has become publicly defiant under the Trump Administration. Civil servants are openly defying executive directives in their official capacity, despite strong norms to the contrary. The social practice raises both parallels and contrasts to civil disobedience by private citizens; it thus similarly raises the need for sustained scholarly debate. This article seeks to isolate the phenomenon of civil servant disobedience conceptually and begin an exploration into its normative implications. In particular, it considers the ideal of a reciprocal hierarchy, whereby political appointees consult the expertise and experience of career staff as required by statute. This ideal may help to inform evaluations of civil servant disobedience as a form of bureaucratic process-perfection alongside other legitimating criteria. These factors, however, might actually suggest that disobedience is usually difficult to justify in practice.
Civil Servant Disobedience,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol94/iss2/6