The Parliament of the Experts

Abstract

In the administrative state, how should expert opinions be aggregated and used? If a panel of experts is unanimous on a question of fact, causation, or prediction, can an administrative agency rationally disagree, and on what grounds? If experts are split into a majority view and a minority view, must the agency follow the majority? Should reviewing courts limit agency discretion to select among the conflicting views of experts, or to depart from expert consensus? I argue that voting by expert panels is likely, on average, to be epistemically superior to the substantive judgment of agency heads, in determining questions of fact, causation, or prediction. Nose counting of expert panels should generally be an acceptable basis for decision under the arbitrary and capricious or substantial evidence tests. Moreover, agencies should be obliged to follow the (super)majority view of an expert panel, even if the agency’s own judgment is to the contrary, unless the agency can give an epistemically valid second-order reason for rejecting the panel majority’s view. TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction ...........................................................................................2232 I. Assumptions and the Law................................................................2235 A. Preliminaries.............................................................................2235 B. How the Law Stands................................................................2239 II. When Agencies May Count Noses................................................2241 A. An Example: Black Lung Benefits ........................................2241 Copyright © 2009 by Adrian Vermeule. † John H. Watson Professor of Law, Harvard Law School. Presented at the Duke Law Journal’s 2009 Administrative Law Symposium. Thanks to Lisa Bressman, Glenn Cohen, Richard Fallon, Lisa Heinzerling, Matthew Stephenson, Jonathan Weiner, and the conference participants for helpful comments, and to Colleen Roh for excellent research assistance. VERMEULE IN FINAL.DOC 6/24/2009 8:56:48 AM 2232 DUKE LAW JOURNAL [Vol. 58:2231 B. Why Count Noses? ..................................................................2241 C. Alternatives ..............................................................................2241 D. Nose Counting in Regulatory Rulemaking...........................2241 III. When Nose Counting Is Inadequate ...........................................2241 A. Endogenous Panels and Strategic Behavior .........................2241 B. Judgment Falsification and Groupthink................................2241 C. The Conditions for Expert Groupthink ................................2241 D. Conclusion ................................................................................2241 IV. When Agencies Must Count Noses .............................................2241 A. An Example: Fine Particulate Matter ...................................2241 B. Expert Disagreement and First-Order Reasons...................2241 C. Ex Ante Incentives ..................................................................2241 D. Disaggregating Agencies.........................................................2241 E. Facts, Policymaking, and Statutory Authority .....................2241 F. An Interpretive Default Rule.................................................2241 G. Fact-Finding and Second-Order Reasons .............................2241 H. Track Records ..........................................................................2241 I. Comparative Qualifications....................................................2241 J. Bias ............................................................................................2241 K. Groupthink and Judgment Falsification................................2241 L. The Unanimity Dilemma ........................................................2241 M. An Undemanding Presumption .............................................2241 Conclusion..............................................................................................2241

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{VERMEULE2009ThePO, title={The Parliament of the Experts}, author={ADRIAN VERMEULE and Lisa Bressman and Glenn Cohen and Richard Fallon and Lisa Heinzerling and Matthew Stephenson and Jonathan P. Weiner}, year={2009} }