Supreme Court to Debate Overturning Chevron Doctrine

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider overturning the Chevron doctrine in the Court’s October 2023 term. Chevron is the legal doctrine that has given federal regulators broad power to define their authority. The appeal in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, by four New Jersey fishing companies, asks the court to overturn the watershed 1984 Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council ruling. In the Chevron decision, the Supreme Court held that courts should defer to administrative agencies when they offer a reasonable interpretation of an unclear statute.

The case involves a federal requirement that some fishing vessels that are fishing herring off the Atlantic coast hire monitors for conservation and management purposes. The requirement specifically mandates that the fishing companies themselves are expected to pay for the monitors. The fishing companies challenged the requirement, claiming that Congress did not authorize the National Marine Fisheries Service (Service) to require them to pay for the monitors. The fishing companies allege that they could spend as much as 20 percent of their revenues on the monitors. In August 2022, the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit upheld the district court’s “grant of summary judgment [upholding the monitoring requirement] to the Service based on its reasonable interpretation of its authority and its adoption of the Amendment and the Rule through a process that afforded the requisite notice and opportunity to comment” requirement relying upon the Chevron doctrine.

The fishing companies argue that the Court can simply say Chevron does not apply because the law in question (the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs the management of marine fisheries in federal waters) does not say anything at all about requiring the industry to fund the cost of monitors. Therefore, there is no ambiguity to be interpreted in favor of the Agency.  On May 1, the Court granted certiorari to hear Question 2 from the fishing companies’ petition, which asked: “Whether the Court should overrule Chevron or at least clarify that statutory silence concerning controversial powers expressly but narrowly granted elsewhere in the statute does not constitute an ambiguity requiring deference to the agency.”

Overturning Chevron would put more responsibility on Congress to directly address policy issues and give judges more authority to define the limit of agency powers.