US Supreme Court Limits Federal Agency Power

July 02, 2024 | Washington, D.C.

Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision in a case involving the deference given by courts to federal agencies on matters where authorizing legislation is ambiguous. In a 6-3 opinion in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, the court overturned the doctrine established in 1984 in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which stated that courts would give deference to federal agency determinations on policy matters where statutory language was ambiguous.

The reliance by courts on the so-called Chevron doctrine had been criticized by legal scholars who argued it allowed federal agencies to go beyond what Congress had specifically intended when it passed legislation. Supporters argued that Congress did not have the technical expertise in many cases to set forth in statute what agencies tasked with issuing regulations could do. The court’s decision means that the judiciary, rather than federal agencies, would have to determine the limits of agency discretion when a state is ambiguous on a specific matter.