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Supreme Court hears case challenging the power of federal agencies

The Ruth & Pat, a herring seine boat. Associated Press/Photo by Robert F. Bukaty, file

Supreme Court hears case challenging the power of federal agencies

Lawyers representing Loper Bright Enterprises, a New England-based fishing company, and other herring fisheries on Wednesday challenged a requirement that fishermen pay for government observers to monitor their catch. Attorney Paul Clement said paying the salaries was “a crippling blow.” A rule of the National Marine Fisheries Service mandates that fishermen pay more than $700 per day for government observers to ride along and monitor their compliance with federal regulations. Attorneys for the fishermen say the agency does not have the authority to mandate industry-funded monitoring. Lower courts in 2021 upheld the rule using a 40-year-old legal doctrine called the “Chevron deference” defining when courts should defer to federal agencies to interpret unclear laws. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh seemed ready to challenge the doctrine, while Ketanji Brown Jackson said she saw it as “helping courts stay away from policymaking.” The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by this summer.

What are the implications of this case? Lawyers for the fishermen have asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Chevron doctrine. The practice gets its name from the Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council case decided by the Supreme Court in 1984. According to the practice, a court must accept a federal agency’s interpretation of a law if it determines that Congress has not directly addressed the question at the center of the case. The doctrine has been used to strengthen the government’s regulatory power over environmental, public health, and consumer protection issues. The Alliance Defending Freedom wrote a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Christian Employers Alliance urging more control of government agencies.

Dig deeper: Read Erin Hawley’s column in WORLD Opinions about current Supreme Court cases aimed at reducing the power of government agencies.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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