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U.S. Supreme Court Will Address Chevron Deference Doctrine

Tax Development Aug 17, 2023

U.S. Supreme Court Will Address Chevron Deference Doctrine

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted review of Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo,1 which may determine the fate of the deference doctrine established in Chevron2 in 1984. The issue in Loper is whether the Court should overrule Chevron, or limit or clarify the applicability of requiring deference to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute.

Nearly 40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Chevron that courts should defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute as long as that interpretation is reasonable. The rationale for deference was that expert agencies are better suited than judges to make policy choices. This issue will be reconsidered in Loper, potentially being heard in the fall.

In Loper, a group of New Jersey fishermen are challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS’s) claimed authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (“the Act”) to require fishermen to pay the salaries of onboard federal observers required to monitor compliance with federal law. The Act does not specifically address the issue, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of NMFS by applying Chevron deference to the agency’s interpretation of the Act. The Court’s ruling held that although federal fishery law clearly states that the government can require fishing boats to carry monitors, it does not specifically dictate who must pay for the monitors. The Court deferred to NMFS’s interpretation because it was deemed reasonable. The petitioners are asking the Court to overrule or limit the application of Chevron in this case.

The fishing companies are requesting a review of both their challenge to the Chevron rule as well as a request to overrule Chevron (or, as stated in the petition, clarify that when a law does not address “controversial powers expressly but narrowly granted elsewhere in the statute,” there is no ambiguity in the statute and, therefore, no deference is required). The justices considered the case at five consecutive conferences before agreeing to take up only the second question on the Chevron doctrine.

The case is scheduled to be argued in the fall, with a decision to follow sometime in 2024. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the case, most likely because of her participation in oral arguments in the case at the Circuit Court level. Please contact one of the Ryan experts listed below with any questions or for more information.

1 No. 22-451.

2 Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 461 U.S 837 (1984).


Mark L. Nachbar

Mary Bernard

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