Supreme Court will consider Chevron deference doctrine, which could help defang the deep state

By Jen Krausz on
 June 3, 2024

The Supreme Court has taken on a case regarding the Chevron deference doctrine, which could change the way federal agencies are allowed to decide how to interpret laws when they are unclear. 

The doctrine has become a sticking point for conservatives, who see it as giving the deep state too much power to control the federal government.

In effect, agency bureaucrats use the doctrine to get the power to change laws by reinterpreting them, and most of those longtime bureaucrats are liberal Democrats, according to Republicans.

“Initially this doctrine was embraced by judges and scholars of all stripes as a neutral principle for how you sort things out when Congress leaves some of the questions unanswered,” David Doniger, a lawyer who helped create the doctrine in 1984, said.

Too easy for unelected bureacrats

But as time went on, the doctrine served to essentially give lawmaking power to unelected bureaucrats, and most of the time it went in a decidedly liberal direction.

“It has made it too easy for agencies to revise regulatory requirements and too difficult for courts to police the boundaries of agency authority,” Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler wrote about the doctrine for the Cato Institute, a conservative thinktank.

Conservatives on the court have commented on the doctrine before, most recently in 2022 when Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito that “the whole project deserves a tombstone no one can miss.”

The current case

The current case was brought by herring fishermen in Maine, who balked at being told by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they would have to pay for government observers to make sure they weren't overfishing the area.

The Chevron doctrine gives the EPA the right to decide how the observers should be paid, and they decided the fishermen should pay.

The case is being paid for by conservatives including billionaire Charles Koch for the express purpose of bringing a challenge to the doctrine before the nation's high court.

If the doctrine is struck down, it could have almost a Roe V. Wade kind of impact on the federal government.

There could be some confusion and chaos as courts try to figure out how to decide who should interpret laws when they are ambiguous.

If the case goes against the doctrine, it will take the teeth out of the unelected bureaucracy without former President Trump even having to mass fire them--but he probably still will anyway.

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