I didn’t realize this about the California Coastal Commission:
Under the Coastal Act, any two members of the commission can appeal a local government’s action to the commission. After creating a controversy where there wasn’t one, those same commissioners are able to vote on how the appeal should be decided.
In effect, the Commission is a body that both investigates and adjudicates its own cases. Not only is the investigation and adjudication determined by the same people, those people are neither elected by nor accountable to Californians.
The Supreme Court decision that authorizes this structure, Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35 (1975), holds that “the combination of investigative and adjudicative functions” is entitled to under the Constitution to “presumption of honesty and integrity.” This rule is difficult to square with other Supreme Court authority concerning “the basic constitutional doctrine that individual freedoms will best be preserved through a separation of powers and division of functions among the different branches and levels of Government.” Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 U.S. 753, 759 (1979). It is especially difficult to square with Federalist no. 51:
To what expedient then shall we finally resort for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government, as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. . . .
. . . .
But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defence must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to controul the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controuls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself.
The structural division of governmental power is undermined by a rule that permits centralized power in an unelected body that is subject only to proof of “actual bias or prejudgment.” Withrow at 47. It violates the original compact of the people, described in Federalist no. 51, who consented to surrender power to a government on the condition that such power would be “subdivided among distinct and separate departments.”