The Supreme Court on Friday added another legal challenge to its docket involving a request to overturn decades-old precedent that gives the federal government significant leeway in implementing rules and regulations.
It’s the second challenge to what is known as “Chevron deference” — a term of art lawyers gave to how courts have treated the 1984 ruling, which involved a fight between the energy giant and the Environmental Protection Agency and its environmental allies. The court, in a 6-3 ruling, said the EPA’s interpretation of a law was reasonable and that courts should defer to agency judgment in cases in which the law was ambiguous.
The latest case, Relentless Inc. v U.S. Department of Commerce, was brought by Rhode Island fishermen and it will be argued alongside another case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, also involving fishermen, who say a federal rule requiring the industry to pay for federal observers on their boats will cause financial harms to them and is unlawful.
They claim the National Marine Fisheries Service has run amok with a plan to charge fishing vessels as much as $700 a day to hire a monitor to police their catch. The fishers lost in the federal appeals courts and brought the legal battle before the high court.
“This regulatory inequity threatens Petitioners’ use of the flexible style of fishing they have developed and even the use of their vessels with enormous sunk costs. The Final Rule could result in some fishing trips losing rather than making money,” the latest petition to the high court read.
It took at least four justices to vote in favor of hearing the dispute. The two challenges will be argued on the same day in January, though a specific date has not yet been decided.
The cases have the potential of upsetting the 1984 precedent Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council.
To defenders, the precedent blazed a path to good government, putting the experts at federal agencies in charge of the finer points of policymaking.
To detractors, Chevron is the stuff of Orwellian dystopias, siphoning massive amounts of political power away from Congress and the courts and turning it over to unelected and usually anonymous bureaucrats.
In the ensuing decades, the case has become legendary, less for what it said than the way it has been used by some lower courts — particularly the appeals court in Washington that handles so many agency cases — to create a presumption in favor of an agency’s decisions.
– Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.