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Supreme Court Looks to End 40-Year ‘Constitutional Revolution’

via Harvard Online
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The Supreme Court will hear two cases this term that could substantially curb federal agencies’ authority to interpret laws and issue binding rules.

Under the 1984 Chevron doctrine, courts have deferred to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes.

“At long last, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that may signal the beginning of the end to that revolution,” former US assistant attorney general Thomas M. Boyd wrote.

Article I of the Constitution states, “All legislative power herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States,” not federal agencies, Boyd said.

But the cases challenge whether statutory silence constitutes ambiguity requiring deference.

Overturning or limiting Chevron could end the four decades of expanded executive power it enabled.

“Forty years of regulatory and judicial tumult have ensued, finally crescendoing to a point that has compelled the Supreme Court to intervene,” Boyd wrote.

“Whether the Court should overrule Chevron or at least clarify that statutory silence concerning controversial powers expressly but narrowly granted elsewhere in the statute does not constitute an ambiguity requiring deference to the agency.”

At issue are rules by the National Marine Fisheries Service requiring small fishing boats to carry, without explicit authorization, expensive federal monitors whose costs exceeded some days’ earnings.

If the Court no longer defers to agencies’ readings of silent statutes, it would significantly rein in their power and shift interpretive authority back to Congress, curbing growth of the administrative state.

The cases present an opportunity for the Court’s originalist justices, who are skeptical of broad agency discretion, to impose new limits.

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