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Supreme Court Might Strike Death Blow To Federal Agencies’ Regulatory Powers

The Supreme Court is poised to make a significant decision that could reshape the regulatory powers of federal agencies. In two cases, namely Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce, the court will address the argument that Congress never granted federal regulators the authority to compel fishermen to cover the salaries of federal compliance monitors.

Overturning The Chevron Doctrine

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Beyond this specific issue, the court, which boasts a 6-3 conservative majority, has been presented with an opportunity to overturn the Chevron deference doctrine, a move that critics say could curb the extensive powers held by federal agencies.

Challenging the Chevron Deference Doctrine

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At the heart of the legal debate lies the Chevron deference doctrine, a concept rooted in the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Courts Defer To Federal Agency Interpretations

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This doctrine essentially dictates that courts should defer to federal agencies’ interpretations of laws when those laws are ambiguous or unclear. However, this approach has been a contentious point of contention, particularly among conservatives, who argue that it unduly empowers federal agencies.

The Impact of Chevron Deference

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Opponents of Chevron deference contend that it incentivizes a scenario where Congress delegates less authority than the Framers of the U.S. Constitution intended, leaving the executive branch to fill in the legislative gaps through regulatory actions.

Potential Weakening of Federal Foundations

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The case brought forth by the fishermen underscores this argument. Overturning Chevron could potentially weaken the foundation upon which many government regulations rest, raising questions about their legal standing.

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Stakes for Thousands of Regulations

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Chevron’s precedent is so influential that it has become one of the most frequently cited Supreme Court cases. If the court decides to overturn it, numerous regulations could be thrust into legal uncertainty.

Economic Instability

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Simultaneously, the industries regulated by these rules may face economic instability. Additionally, such a ruling would augment the power of the judiciary, making judges the final arbiters of regulatory policies.

Conservative Challenge to Chevron

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Several of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have expressed reservations about the Chevron deference doctrine, including Justice Clarence Thomas. In a 2020 dissenting opinion, Thomas went as far as declaring the doctrine unconstitutional, a notable shift from his previous stance defending federal agencies’ authority.

Controversy

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Thomas’s position also sparked controversy due to his alleged attendance at donor summits organized by the Koch brothers, prominent opponents of Chevron deference.

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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Recusal

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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of the court’s three liberal justices, recused herself from the case. She had previously participated in the case’s arguments while serving on an appellate panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. As a result, only eight justices will participate in the decision, potentially influencing the outcome.

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