WASHINGTON. The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case that could ease the loosening of administrative powers, a longtime goal of the conservative legal movement, that could have far-reaching effects on the way American society conducts business. .
In the brief decision, the court cited the 1984 unanimous precedent of Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. According to the decision, if legislation written by Congress to expand a regulator's authority is ambiguous but the agency's interpretation is reasonable, judges must follow it.
Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo is a law that requires fishing boats to pay observers to follow regulations designed to prevent overfishing. The National Marine Fisheries Service set the rules, and the group wondered if the agency had the authority to do so.
When the Supreme Court rules on the case, likely in the next term, the outcome could affect more than just fishing.
If the court overturns or sharply limits Chevron's precedent, it will be easier for business owners to challenge regulations in the economy. This includes guidelines for providing clean air and water; safety of food, medicine, automobiles and consumer goods; and financial firms not taking too much risk.
In the fisheries dispute, a divided three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the rule. Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote, citing Chevron precedent: "If Congress has not directly addressed a particular issue, an agency may fill that gap with a reasonable interpretation of the statute's text."
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson apparently declined to hear the case from the Supreme Court because of his involvement in the dispute while it was still on the appeals court.
Libertarian conservatives have long sought to reverse the Chevron precedent as part of a broader campaign to tighten administrative status. Regulators have been a target since the New Deal, when Congress created many specialized regulators and tasked them with studying and developing technical regulations to deal with complex problems.
In a November opinion in a separate case, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch said the judiciary had overestimated Chevron's deference and abdicated its responsibility to determine for itself the best interpretation of the law.
"Instead of giving people the best understanding of their rights and responsibilities that a neutral judge can give, we owe it to them to interpret," he said. "Instead of telling what the law is, we tell those who meet us to ask the bureaucrat.
Aides to President Donald J. Trump have preferred to be skeptical of the administrative state in selecting judges and magistrates, and most Republican court appointees in recent years have attacked the administrative state's ability to regulate business interests.
In a 2020 ruling, five then-Republican court appointees struck down a provision in the law passed by Congress that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protected its director from being fired by the president for no reason, such as misconduct.
Two years later, a conservative majority of six justices rejected the EPA's proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The decision reinforced the doctrine that courts must overturn decisions raising "important issues" unless Congress expressly authorized such actions.