Supreme Court Overturns Chevron Doctrine, Impacting Government Regulations

The Supreme Court has made a far-reaching decision that is likely to impact the regulation of the environment, public health, workplace safety, and other issues. In a 6-3 ruling, the court overturned the 1984 Chevron doctrine, which instructed lower courts to defer to federal agencies when laws passed by Congress were ambiguous. This decision has been the basis for upholding numerous regulations by federal agencies over the past four decades. However, conservatives and business groups have long criticized the doctrine for granting excessive power to the executive branch.

The Biden administration has defended the Chevron doctrine, warning that its overturning could destabilize the legal system. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, stated that federal judges should exercise independent judgment in determining whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority. The ruling does not call into question prior cases that relied on the Chevron doctrine.

The case that led to this ruling involved Atlantic herring fishermen who sued over federal rules requiring them to pay for independent observers to monitor their catch. They argued that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act did not authorize such requirements and that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not follow proper rulemaking procedure. The fishermen also sought to overturn the Chevron doctrine.

The Chevron doctrine, established in a unanimous Supreme Court case in 1984, has been a fundamental principle of administrative law, requiring judges to defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of congressional statutes. However, the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court has expressed skepticism towards the powers of federal agencies, with Justices Kavanaugh, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch questioning the Chevron decision.

The ruling is expected to open the door to litigation challenging government regulations, potentially undermining critical protections for people and the environment. Business groups, including those representing the gun industry, tobacco, agriculture, timber, and homebuilding, have supported overturning the Chevron doctrine, arguing that it has allowed the executive branch to amass power at the expense of Congress and the courts.

Legal experts believe that the Supreme Court’s decision will shift power away from the executive branch and Congress towards the courts. Critics of the Chevron doctrine argue that it could lead to judges becoming “radical activists” who rewrite laws and impede necessary protections. However, supporters of the ruling contend that it will reduce the size and influence of the federal government.

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