As the United States Supreme Court heads into its fall session, it will hear a challenge to a decades-old corporate regulation law. Here’s how a group of fishermen could change the balance of power in the federal government forever.
The Chevron Law
Signed into law in 1984, the so-called Chevron law is one of the most cited precedents in American jurisprudence.
There’s good reason for that, too, as Chevron makes it possible for entire industries to run smoothly while also helping to reinforce the separation of power between the U.S. branches of government.
At its core, the Chevron law gives government agencies the freedom to enforce laws passed by Congress in a way that best suits their industries.
So, for example, Congress might pass a broad law stating that all food sold in American stores has to display information about where each ingredient came from.
A “Reasonable” Manner
There would be tons of details to be worked out in order to enforce that law across the board, and members of Congress have neither the time nor the expertise to hash through that nitty gritty.
So instead, it would be left to, say, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with the specifics of how the new packaging would work.
Then, if any company or industry group had a problem with what the FDA was trying to enforce, they could take them to court.
Most often, the agency would prevail because of Chevron, as long as they were deemed to be acting in a “reasonable” manner.
A Potential Bombshell of a Case
But now, a group of commercial fishing companies is taking the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to task for forcing them to pay for oversight of their operations.
That oversight is mandated by federal law, but it’s the NMFS that’s forcing the companies to pay.
That case has wound its way through the lower courts, and now SCOTUS has agreed to make the final determination.
Aside from potential conflicts of interest involving multiple justices (looking at you, Clarence Thomas), this case is a potential bombshell.
Will It Be Left up to Congress?
If the court overturns Chevron, then they have effectively given the power to make detailed decisions about big business to the courts themselves.
Or they’ve forced Congress to spend precious time and energy trying to bake those details into their laws.
Keeping those laws updated for emerging trends could turn into a logistical nightmare.
What most observers on the left believe would happen in the absence of Chevron is that Congress would throw up their hands over that minutiae while watching agency power dwindle over time.
A Deregulated Future?
The end result could be big businesses calling their own shots in a more deregulated landscape than we’ve seen in decades if not centuries.
While not as high-profile as Roe v. Wade, Chevron is another long-standing law that has seemed ripe for a revisit ever since Donald Trump tipped the SCOTUS scales to the right before he left office.
And though the public outcry might not be as vocal or contentious as the one over abortion rights, a world without Chevron could look very different for just about all Americans.
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