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Supreme Court Overturns Decades-Old Chevron Ruling in Landmark Decision

 June 30, 2024

The Supreme Court, in a pivotal 6-3 decision on Friday, overturned the 1984 Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council ruling.

The high court's decision is a major step in the conservative movement's long-term goal to reduce federal regulatory power, as NBC News reports, and is a boon to a potential second term in office for President Donald Trump.

The ruling, which emerged on Friday, saw the Supreme Court's conservative majority dismantling the Chevron precedent, a cornerstone of administrative law for the past 40 years. The case centered on whether federal agencies should have the power to interpret ambiguous statutes, a principle established by the 1984 decision.

Supreme Court's Conservative Majority

The 6-3 vote included all three of Trump's Supreme Court appointee -- Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett -- joining the conservative bloc. Chief Justice John Roberts penned the majority opinion, sharply criticizing the Chevron deference, stating that courts, not agencies, have the ultimate competence in resolving statutory ambiguities.

“Perhaps most fundamentally, Chevron’s presumption is misguided because agencies have no special competence in resolving statutory ambiguities. Courts do,” wrote Roberts.

Former White House counsel Don McGahn had emphasized in 2018 that overturning Chevron was a key objective, highlighting Justice Neil Gorsuch’s pivotal role in this judicial philosophy.

Long-Term Conservative Campaign

Alex Aronson, executive director of Court Accountability, attributed the decision to a "decades-long, billionaire-funded campaign" aimed at bolstering corporate interests at the expense of ordinary Americans. He criticized the Republican-led Senate during Trump's administration for swiftly confirming judges with ideological leanings.

“The decision was the culmination of a decades-long, billionaire-funded campaign to capture and weaponize the unelected power of the Supreme Court to deliver huge windfalls for corporate interests at the expense of everyday Americans,” Aronson stated.

He further added, “During the Trump administration, the Republican-led Senate, which had the job of confirming the president’s judicial nominees, became a conveyor belt for ideological, corporatist judges.”

Reactions to the Ruling

The National Federation of Independent Business supported the ruling, asserting it would level the playing field in legal battles between small businesses and administrative agencies. In contrast, liberal Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent argued that the ruling usurps power from federal agencies, potentially jeopardizing public welfare.

“A rule of judicial humility gives way to a rule of judicial hubris. In recent years, this court has too often taken for itself decision-making authority Congress assigned to agencies,” Kagan wrote.

Environmental lawyer Sean Donahue noted that overturning Chevron had become a litmus test for conservative judges, alongside opposition to abortion rights established in Roe v. Wade.

Impact on Regulatory Power

The ruling is expected to have far-reaching implications for federal regulatory power. Critics fear it will hamper agencies' ability to address significant issues like climate change and public health. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) decried the decision, suggesting it prioritizes corporate interests over the health and safety of Americans.

“Prioritizing corporate greed over the health, safety, and welfare of the American people,” Blumenthal said.

However, Thomas Berry of the Cato Institute supported the decision, arguing it corrects undue power previously held by agencies. “Contrary to the dissenters’ view, overruling Chevron will not give judges a newfound power to decide questions of policy,” Berry stated.

Future of Deregulatory Issues

The Supreme Court is poised to address another deregulatory issue involving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, potentially further impacting the regulatory landscape. The recent decision follows a similar 6-3 ruling that weakened the Securities and Exchange Commission's authority, reflecting a broader trend towards limiting federal agencies' powers.

Attempts to seek comments from Don McGahn and the Trump campaign were unresponsive. As the implications of this landmark decision unfold, the balance between judicial authority and federal agency power will continue to be a contentious issue in American law and politics.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court's overturning of the Chevron ruling is a monumental victory for conservative efforts to reduce federal regulatory power. While supported by business groups and criticized by those concerned with public welfare, this decision underscores a significant shift in the balance of power between federal agencies and the judiciary.