Supreme Court debates reeling in government power - MilectoSupreme Court debates reeling in government power - Milecto

The Supreme Court had a heated discussion on Wednesday about a 40-year-old law rule that gives government agencies a lot of power to regulate areas like the environment, public health, safety, tax collection, stock dealing, and the development of prescription drugs.

Two important cases brought up by professional herring farmers from New Jersey and Rhode Island were at the centre of these talks. They asked the judges to reject the case and questioned a federal rule that said they had to pay for government monitors to be on their ships. The fishermen said that Congress did not mean for them to have to pay for this.

Instead, the Biden administration, with the backing of strong environmental, civil rights, and public health groups, said that the rule was a “reasonable” and legal reading of a federal law that wasn’t clearly stated.

In 1984, Justice Antonin Scalia said in a high court decision that when federal law isn’t clear about a certain issue, judges should follow the reading of a federal body as long as it seems “reasonable.” This method is often called the “Chevron Doctrine,” after the case Chevron v. National Defence Council, where it came from.

Supreme Court debates - Milecto

Back then, environmental groups were up against a 6-0 loss by the court (with three judges not voting). The court’s rulings favoured a view of an air pollution rule that was good for business.

 It’s been known for a while that some of the court’s conservative judges don’t agree with the theory and want it to be thrown out or severely limited.

Justice Clarence Thomas questioned, “How can we determine the boundary?” while deciding how much weight to give a case. Justice Brett Kavanaugh expressed concern that assigning too much weight to government agencies has reduced the law’s stability. He claims that the Chevron doctrine creates significant changes in the system every few years, when the political party that controls the regulations changes following an election.

Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the theory tends to favour the government over people, and Kavanaugh stressed that these changes are big. Gorsuch says that this kind of abuse means that regular Americans and their chosen officials don’t have much of an impact on important issues.

When Biden was president, Elizabeth Prelogar was Solicitor General. She defended the Chevron Doctrine and warned against going against past decisions. She made it clear that doing so would violate many government rules that affect everyday life in the United States and could cause a lot of new court challenges.

Prelogar focused on “stare decisis,” saying that it is an important part of the law system. She asked the Supreme Court to think carefully about what would happen before changing well-established law.

Opposing, the fishermen, with the help of powerful business and right groups with big financial stakes, said that the Chevron Doctrine is fundamentally wrong. They said that the government has too much control over people’s lives without getting permission from Congress or the courts.

Roman Martinez, an attorney for the sailors, said that judges should trust the knowledge of the agencies, but the agencies need to make their cases strong. Martinez said that the court should follow the best knowledge of the law, even if it is different from the agency’s view, if it doesn’t agree with the agency’s reading.

The government says that policymakers should give experts in federal agencies some freedom when making decisions about things like endangered fishing, climate technology, land-use plans, and medical research. That is especially important when the rules that Congress passes don’t say exactly how they should be followed.

All three of the court’s left judges said they agreed with this method. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was worried about courts overstepping an agency’s power to make policy, and she stressed how worried she was about judges doing that without the Chevron Doctrine.

Justice Elena Kagan said that the best thing to do is to listen carefully and follow an agency’s view if it makes sense. She also said that judges should know what they don’t know.

If you look at the right side, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett were more careful in what they said.

During the formal arguments, Justice Barrett made hints that he might be leaning towards a solution that improves the Chevron Doctrine instead of completely rejecting it. Many people are afraid about what might happen to the modern administrative state if the Supreme Court does what most people think they will do and rejects Chevron. Erin Bryan, a regulatory and compliance lawyer at Dorsey & Whitney LLC, said that members of the right majority have spoken out against Chevron in the past and have quickly made it clear that they still have doubts.

The court should make a ruling about the case by the end of June.


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