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Supreme Court to Hear Challenge Against Landmark Decision That ‘Wreaked Havoc’ On ‘People And Businesses’

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 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.”

The fishing companies’ challenge drew support from a number of groups.

“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, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, 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.

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