Supreme Court Overrules Chevron Deference

Supreme Court Overrules Chevron Deference

Federal courts will no longer give controlling weight to agency interpretations of ambiguous laws.

On June 28, 2024, the Supreme Court decided a pair of cases—Relentless v. Department of Commerce and Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo—that overruled the Court's landmark 1984 decision in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. Under Chevron, federal courts, rather than interpreting ambiguous statutes for themselves, deferred to the reasonable interpretations of executive branch agencies.

The Court, recognizing that federal agencies have no special competence in resolving statutory ambiguities, explained that Chevron deference defies the Administrative Procedure Act, which instructs the reviewing court—not the agency whose action it reviews—to decide all relevant questions of law. And that responsibility remains, the Court went on, even when the statute at issue is ambiguous, because resolving statutory ambiguities is the responsibility of federal courts.

Although stare decisis could not supply a reason to uphold Chevron, the Court noted that earlier cases that relied on Chevron need not be overturned. And it observed that courts may still, under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., seek aid from—and accord "respectful consideration" to—the interpretation of an agency responsible for implementing a particular statute, to the extent the interpretation has the power to persuade. But courts may no longer abdicate their responsibility to exercise independent judgment in interpreting laws.

Relentless and Loper Bright level the playing field when individuals and businesses challenge executive branch overreach because federal courts will no longer defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes under Chevron.

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