Supreme Court overrules Chevron

On June 28, 2024, in Supreme Court, by Josh Ricken

The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) today overruled Chevron deference in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. SCOTUS has determined that Judges, not Agencies, must exercise their own judgment on regulatory decisions. Agencies are not to be given special deference simply because a law is ambiguous.

In 1984, the Supreme Court heard the landmark case of Chevron U.S.A., Inc., v. Naturla Resources Defense Council, Inc. where the NRDC sued the EPA over an ambiguous interpretation of an emission law under the Clean Air Act. As a result of this case, the Supreme Court established a test called Chevron Deference. This came into play whenever an Agency came up with a ruling or decision that was ambiguous, meaning no authority was directly given to them by Congress. A Court would have to look at the Agency action, and if Congress was silent or ambiguous on the specific issue, the Court then asked itself whether the Agency action was permissible. The Agency’s actions only needed to be “reasonable” or “rational” to be validated.  As a result, it was very rare for Courts to overturn Agency decision based on the Agency’s own interpretation unless it was exceedingly egregious.

As of today, this standard is no more. The Supreme Court, with Justice John Roberts authorizing the 6-3 decision, has overruled Chevron and, thus, gotten rid of Chevron Deference as a concept for all future Court decisions in the United States. Roberts stated in the decision that Chevron “defies the command” of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and “that the reviewing court–not the agency whose action it reviews–is to decide all relevant questions of law and interpret … statutory provisions. It requires a court to ignore, not follow, the reading the court would have reached had it exercised its independent judgment as required by the APA.” Roberts also stated that the implicit delegation of authority to Agencies was “misguided” because “Agencies have no special competence in resolving statutory ambiguities. Courts do.”

Likely fearing lawsuits related to the overturning, Roberts iterated that this decision does not call into question any Court cases prior that relied on Chevron before this point.  “[This does not] call into question prior cases that relied on the Chevron framework. The holdings of those cases that specific agency actions are lawful–including the Clean Air Act holding of Chevron itself–are still subject to statutory stare decisis despite our change in interpretive methodology.”

A website defining Chevron deference in greater depth can be found here. The link to the live SCOTUS blog reporting can be found here. The Loper decision can be found here.