Supreme Court Likely to Restrict the Administrative State


Washington D.C. Supreme Court
Getty Images / Robert Alexander


The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a highly important case that could potentially end Chevron deference, a legal principle that has long given federal agencies leeway in interpreting ambiguous statutes. This is big news, and it could have a profound impact on how our government operates. Let me break it down for you.

The case in question is Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. It revolves around a family-owned herring fishing company, Loper Bright Enterprises, which operates in New England waters. They’re challenging a National Marine Fisheries Service regulation that requires herring fishing boats to have an additional person on board, known as a monitor, to ensure compliance with federal regulations. The fishing company must pay the monitor’s salary, which eats into their already tight profit margins.

Loper Bright Enterprises and other fishing companies sued, arguing that the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs fishing regulations, doesn’t mention payment of the monitor. However, the district court ruled against them, and a divided panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals deferred to the agency’s interpretation of the statute under the Chevron framework.

Now, the Supreme Court has taken up the case, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recusing herself due to her involvement in earlier proceedings. The Court has limited its review to the question of whether it should overrule Chevron, or at least clarify that statutory silence on controversial powers does not require deference to the agency.

The Biden administration had urged the Supreme Court not to take up the case, arguing that it isn’t a suitable vehicle for modifying or overruling Chevron. But the plaintiffs and their legal representatives are celebrating the Court’s decision.

Ryan Mulvey, counsel for Cause of Action Institute, said in a statement: “The Supreme Court has an opportunity to correct one of the most consequential judicial errors in a generation. Chevron deference has proven corrosive to the American system of checks and balances and directly contributed to an unaccountable executive branch, overbearing bureaucracy, and runaway regulation.”

This case could be a game-changer for how our government operates. If the Supreme Court chooses to overrule or modify Chevron deference, it could significantly impact the balance of power between federal agencies and the courts. Bill Bright, a New Jersey fisherman and plaintiff in the case, explains that the justices hold his way of life in their hands: “We hope they will keep our families and our community in mind as they weigh their decision.”

A study by the Cato Institute, which filed an amicus brief in the case, found that “courts of appeals still defer under Chevron with regularity, despite the Supreme Court’s increasing reluctance to invoke the doctrine.” According to the group, “Chevron will not fade away completely until the Supreme Court overrules it.”

Keep your eyes on this case. It could have far-reaching consequences for our country and the delicate balance of power that keeps our government in check. We’ll be watching closely to see how the Supreme Court handles this potentially landmark decision.


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