May 3, 2023

Supreme Court Case Could End the Chevron Doctrine, Cut Down on Executive Power

The case will have implications for numerous policy issues, from climate change to gun control.

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By Hudson Crozier

What’s happening: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, a case in which fishermen are disputing the authority of the U.S. Commerce Department to regulate them. The department wants to force the fishermen to pay inspectors a salary to monitor them on boat rides, citing a clause that allows any "necessary and appropriate” regulations that are relevant to the agency's tasks.

Why this matters: The fishermen’s lawsuit challenges the 1984 case Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which established that executive agencies have the final say when it comes to interpreting vague provisions of federal law, not courts. The “Chevron doctrine” has been used to uphold thousands of regulations over the last few decades and has been criticized as an abuse of executive power. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Loper will determine the limits of agencies’ power and could make them more vulnerable to legal challenges.

What we know: The Court’s conservative majority has often ruled against broad executive powers. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas have questioned Chevron, and Chief Justice John Roberts supports limiting it. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the case over a potential conflict of interest, leaving only two liberal justices. The Court will hear arguments for the case this fall and will likely rule on it next year.

Big picture: While the Chevron ruling was a victory for former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, the right has increasingly sought to rein in the executive “deep state.” But some on the left fear that corporations will become too powerful if the Court gives them more ability to challenge regulations. The case will have implications for numerous policy issues, from climate change to gun control.

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