Faculty Focus: Tuan Samahon

Tuan Samahon

Not only do Villanova Law School professors use books to teach the law, but they also use current events to help make the law a living reality for students.

Professor Tuan Samahon has published articles on federal separation of powers doctrine, with a focus on the presidential power to appoint and remove. So in January 2012, when President Obama made three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board during a three-day Senate break, Samahon took note. Ordinarily, the U.S. Constitution requires that the Senate consent to appointments, with an exception that the President can act alone to “fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate.”

Samahon’s students in his Fall 2013 Advanced Separation of Powers Seminar took on the role of student legal advocates, discussing the case and taking action. The students found that the Obama administration, in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the appointments, had relied on 2004 and 2009 Bush Administration legal memoranda concerning the scope of the President’s recess power. However, these memoranda had never been released to the public or to the Court.

Samahon and his students subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case to force release of the undisclosed legal materials that the administration claimed supported its position. In addition, the students drafted and filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning to caution against relying on secret executive branch law.

The students who assisted in drafting the brief were given the opportunity to travel to Washington for the oral argument at the Supreme Court in January 2014.

On June 26, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the President’s recess appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional. In the future, the Court held, any Senate recess shorter than ten days will normally be insufficient to trigger the President’s recess appointment power.

John Mezzanotte, VLS ’14 and a student in Samahon’s class said, “President Obama’s recess appointments were highly publicized and drew debate from all areas of the legal field. It was very rewarding to see that the Supreme Court’s opinion was ultimately the same as ours. This was an experience I won’t soon forget!”

Click here to view Professor Samahon’s biography and a list of classes taught by him.