The Supreme Court agreed Monday to reconsider long held precedent and decide whether to significantly scale back on the power of federal agencies in a case that can impact everything from how the government addresses everything from climate change to public health to immigration.
Conservative justices have long sought to rein in regulatory authority, arguing that Washington has too much control over American businesses and individual lives. The justices have been incrementally diminishing federal power but the new case would allow them to take a much broader stride.
The justices announced they would take up an appeal from herring fishermen in the Atlantic who say the National Marine Fisheries Service does not have the authority to require them to pay the salaries of government monitors who ride aboard the fishing vessels.
Their action means they will reconsider a 1984 case – Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council – that sets forward factors to determine when courts should defer to a government agency’s interpretation of the law.
Conservatives on the bench have cast a skeptical eye on the so-called Chevron deference, arguing that agencies are often too insulated from the usual checks and balances essential to the separation of powers.
“The idea that agencies should be allowed to resolve ambiguities in statutes that they enforce has been a central feature of modern administrative law,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“If it’s up to courts rather than agencies to resolve ambiguities even in statutes delegating highly technical authority to the executive branch, that will give courts more power – and the executive branch less – on everything from environmental regulation to immigration to public health to meat inspections to telecommunications policy,” Vladeck said. “In that respect, it’s consistent with the current conservative majority’s pattern of weakening the administrative state – in favor of judicial power to answer all of these questions.” [Continue reading…]