Supreme Court Takes Challenge To Landmark Decision That ‘Wreaked Havoc’ On ‘People And Businesses’

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The Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear a case directly challenging a landmark decision on the powers of federal agencies, providing the Court an opportunity to drastically limit the authority of the administrative state.

The challenge stems from family-owned fishing companies’ lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) after it forced them to pay the salaries of legally mandated onboard federal observers — amounting to 20% of company revenues — based on its interpretation of a law governing fishery management. The companies challenge the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, a ruling that established the principle that federal courts should defer to agency interpretations of statutes when Congress’ intent is ambiguous.

“The Supreme Court has an opportunity to correct one of the most consequential judicial errors in a generation,” Cause of Action Institute counsel Ryan Mulvey, who is representing the fisherman, said in a statement. “Chevron deference has proven corrosive to the American system of checks and balances and directly contributed to an unaccountable executive branch, overbearing bureaucracy, and runaway regulation.”

The D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of NMFS, using Chevron to justify its decision. The government defends Chevron in its brief.

“Federal courts have invoked Chevron in thousands of reported decisions, and Congress has repeatedly legislated against its backdrop,” it writes. “By centralizing interpretive decisions in agencies supervised by the President, Chevron also promotes political accountability, national uniformity, and predictability, and it respects the expertise agencies can bring to bear in administering complex statutory schemes.”

US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Adi Dynar, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the case means the Supreme Court can make clear that courts do not need to allow agencies to “make a travesty of the Constitution’s separation of powers.”

“Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to put an end to unconstitutional deference to government agencies once and for all,” Dynar said. “The Constitution recognizes no exception to the judicial power to say what the law is. The Court now has the opportunity to state the obvious: federal courts are not required to permit agencies to make a travesty of the Constitution’s separation of powers and due process of law by deferring to an agency’s interpretation of the law.”

The fishing companies’ challenge drew support from a number of groups. (RELATED: The Supreme Court Just Made It Easier To Sue The Administrative State)

“The Chevron doctrine originated from ostensibly innocent beginnings, purportedly as an extension of statutory canons of construction,” Cato Institute and Liberty Justice Center wrote in their brief. “But it is now clear that Chevron deference is unconstitutional and ahistorical. Over the past forty years and counting, it has wreaked havoc in the lower courts upon people and businesses.”

The case is not the only major challenge to the administrative state headed to the Supreme Court. The Court agreed in February to take on a constitutional challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) funding mechanism.

This article has been updated with comment from the Pacific Legal Foundation.

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