By Elise Desiderio, 2L
In the spring of 2017, as President Trump was taking office, I took Administrative Law with Professor Rena Steinzor. Professor Steinzor’s class made me particularly passionate about what federal agencies do and how they interact with the public, the President, and the courts.
President Trump ran for office decrying what he described as “job-killing” regulations, and one of his most fervent campaign promises was promoting a deregulatory federal agency culture. After his inauguration, President Trump continued to promote his deregulatory activities, but the media and academic landscape lacked comprehensive analysis of what those activities looked like. To fill this research gap, Professor Steinzor and I tasked ourselves with analyzing the Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts, with support from the Center for Progressive Reform.
I spent the summer of 2017 working with Professor Steinzor to track, compile, and analyze federal agencies’ regulatory activity. Our project was large in scope: we wanted to discover what the Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts looked like in practical terms, and sought to track those efforts across the first six months of the Trump presidency.
Over the course of ten weeks, we explored several issues surrounding the Trump Administration’s regulatory goals: (1) the rate of agency deregulation, and which agencies were particularly vulnerable; (2) the methods of that deregulation; and (3) the number and nature of the rules federal agencies sought to abandon.
Our research led to two publications that received national media attention. First, our report tracking forty-two delayed rules and thirteen rules placed under review was cited in The New York Times, Scientific American, and The National Law Journal, among other outlets.
Our second report, comparing President Obama’s last regulatory agenda from Fall 2016 with President Trump’s first agenda from Spring 2017, identified 131 rules from the 2016 agenda that were abandoned in the 2017 agenda. This report was cited on Greenwire and CNN.com. In addition to contributing to these publications, I wrote an internal memorandum exploring the legality of President Trump’s January 30, 2017 executive order titled “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.”
I was initially drawn to this project as someone who is committed to workers’ rights, particularly safeguards against occupational hazards such as chemical exposure or injury due to dangerous equipment. I believe that, by and large, the regulations that federal agencies promulgate promote safety, conservation, consumer protection, and public health. As a citizen who benefits from the safeguards federal agencies provide, I was excited for the opportunity to highlight the potential dangers of losing those safeguards under the guise of market freedom.
Moreover, the opportunity for students to do innovative research with our professors allows us to further demonstrate and build our work ethic as budding law practitioners. I highly recommend that students seek out and seize opportunities to work with professors in an intensive summer project. Interested students should reach out to their professors outside of class regarding issues they’re passionate about, and develop positive working relationships with peers and professors with similar interests. There are many opportunities available to interested students with positive attitudes, solid work ethics, and the gumption to go for it.
Elise Desiderio is in her second year at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is a staff editor for the Journal of Business and Technology Law and a Teaching Fellow for first-year legal writing classes. After law school, she plans to work in public service, likely in the criminal or administrative law spaces. She is passionate about issues of fairness, safety, privacy, and equality—particularly in an uncertain world with an ever-changing technological landscape.