WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that President Barack Obama violated the U.S. Constitution when he used recess appointments to fill a labor board, a decision that could curtail the president's options in filling vacancies.
Obama, frustrated by Republican opposition to his nominees, made the three "recess" appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012, while the Senate was on one of its many recesses but not formally adjourned for the year.
"Considering the text, history, and structure of the Constitution, these appointments were invalid from their inception," said the ruling by a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The panel said the Senate was not truly in recess when Obama made his appointments.
White House spokesman Jay Carney called the ruling "novel and unprecedented" and said it contradicted 150 years of practice by both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Carney would not say whether the White House would appeal the decision. He referred questions to the Justice Department, which did not immediately respond to request for comment.
It was unclear what immediate impact the ruling will have on the board and the decisions it has issued with the new members.
In the near-term, the ruling casts doubt on the ability of the NLRB, an independent agency that oversees labor disputes, to conduct its business if it does not have enough members. It also could make its recent rulings vulnerable to challenge.