Two cases argued at the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 17 could significantly alter federal agency power, potentially leaving employers in a stronger position when they challenge agency actions in court.
The two cases challenge the federal government’s requirement for fishing companies to pay for federal monitors on their boats. They are Relentless v. Department of Commerce, in which the owners of three fishing companies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are suing, and Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which involves fishing companies in New Jersey.
The justices will decide whether to overturn the long-standing Chevron precedent, which holds that when Congress wrote a statute without a clear meaning, courts should defer to the federal agency applying the law, unless its directives were unreasonable. The final ruling could impact the outcomes of employers’ future cases against federal agencies that enforce employment laws, such as the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The court is likely to issue a ruling before the end of June when its current term ends.
Several conservative justices voiced opposition to the Chevron doctrine, saying it gives too much unwarranted power to federal agencies. “The government always wins,” said Justice Neal Gorsuch.
However, some liberal justices backed the Chevron doctrine because the federal agencies have experience and expertise in their subject area, which the courts do not.
“My concern is that if we take away something like Chevron,” said Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, “the court will then suddenly become a policymaker by majority rule or not, making policy determinations.”