Well, some good news from the Supreme Court this time, which perhaps you’ve heard about. What is known as the “Chevron deference” was just overturned. This is a big deal, folks.

In a landmark decision that has significant implications for the separation of powers and the role of the judiciary, the Supreme Court has overruled the Chevron doctrine, a legal precedent that has shaped the relationship between courts and federal agencies for nearly four decades. The case, “Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo,” marks a pivotal moment in the restoration of constitutional principles, particularly the judiciary’s role in interpreting laws.

Background: The Chevron Doctrine

The Chevron doctrine originated from the 1984 Supreme Court case Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. It established a two-step process for courts to use when reviewing federal agency interpretations of statutes they administer:

  1. Step One: Determine if Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter.
  2. Step Two: If the statute is ambiguous, courts must defer to the agency’s interpretation as long as it is a permissible construction of the statute.

This doctrine effectively granted federal agencies significant leeway in interpreting ambiguous laws, often leading to judicial deference to agency expertise.

Real-World Impact: Loper Bright Enterprises

A family fishing company, Loper Bright Enterprises, was being driven out of business because they couldn’t afford the $700 per day they were being charged by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to monitor their company. The thing is, federal law doesn’t authorize NMFS to charge businesses for this. They just decided to start doing it in 2013.

Why did they think they could get away with just charging people without any legal authorization? Because in 1984, in the Chevron decision, the Supreme Court decided that regulatory agencies were the “experts” in their field, and the courts should just defer to their “interpretation” of the law. So for the past 40 years, federal agencies have been able to “interpret” laws to mean whatever they want, and the courts had to just go with it.

Supreme Court’s Decision: Overruling Chevron

In the opinion delivered for “Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo,” the Supreme Court meticulously examined the implications of Chevron deference and concluded that it is incompatible with the principles outlined in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Constitution. The APA mandates that courts decide all relevant questions of law independently, without deferring to agency interpretations.

Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, emphasized that the Chevron framework has deviated from the traditional judicial approach and the requirements of the APA. By overruling Chevron, the Court seeks to restore the judiciary’s constitutional role in interpreting statutes, ensuring that judges—not agencies—have the final say in what the law is.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Chevron reaffirms the judiciary’s constitutional independence by restoring its role as the primary interpreter of laws, crucial for maintaining the balance of power among the branches of government. This move strengthens the separation of powers, ensuring a clear distinction between the functions of the executive and judicial branches, as envisioned by the Framers. By promoting greater accountability and consistency in the interpretation of laws, the decision underscores the judiciary’s importance in upholding the rule of law and provides a more stable legal environment. It also ensures that courts, rather than agencies, interpret ambiguous statutes, leading to a more faithful adherence to congressional intent and preventing agencies from creating policies without explicit legislative authorization.

Broader Implications

As noted by Tom Woods on his show with Kevin Gutzman, Chevron Deference allowed agencies to operate almost autonomously, making up rules without clear statutory authorization. Examples include the OHSA mandating vaccinations without clear legislative backing, the ATF classifying a piece of plastic as a “machine gun,” and the NRCS designating small puddles as “protected wetlands.”

Imagine if your local police could just arrest you for any reason, and no judge or jury was allowed to determine if you’d actually committed a crime. Just off to jail you go. That’s what Chevron Deference was. It was not only blatantly unconstitutional, but it also caused immeasurable harm to everyone.

The people weeping right now are some of the worst in our society, so that reinforces how good the decision to reverse it was. Harvard’s Laurence Tribe feels sorry not for Americans who have been endlessly harassed by these semi-lawless agencies, but for his legal buddies who were trained to operate in this environment: “The ones I feel sorry for are my administrative law colleagues who built their courses and careers around the intricacies of Chevron deference.”

That this kind of people will have to find something else to do is a wonderful bonus, not something to deplore! As Tom Woods put it on Twitter, “I already support the decision; you don’t have to keep selling it to me!”

Whenever something like this happens, when a wicked but seemingly irreversible doctrine is overturned, it reinforces our belief in the resilience and wisdom of the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision in “Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo” is indeed a significant victory for the restoration of constitutional principles. By overruling the Chevron doctrine, the Court has reaffirmed the judiciary’s role in interpreting laws, strengthened the separation of powers, and promoted accountability and consistency in the legal system.

This decision is a reminder of the enduring importance of the Constitution’s framework in maintaining a balanced and fair government. It underscores the judiciary’s vital role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the interpretation of statutes remains within the proper bounds of judicial authority. As the nation moves forward, this ruling will serve as a cornerstone for preserving the constitutional balance that is essential for the functioning of American democracy.