McKenna: SCOTUS case may lead to more power for judges

May 4, 2023, 3:38 PM | Updated: 4:03 pm

judges herring fishers...

Fishermen off the East Coast look for herring. (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

In what could become a precedent-setting case before the United States Supreme Court, judges may gain more power when it comes to ambiguous federal law.

On KIRO Newsradio’s Seattle’s Morning News, Dave Ross spoke with former Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna about a case that would give judges more power to overrule federal bureaucrats.

The current case involves herring fishermen on the East Coast. According to the Chevron Doctrine, judges should defer to federal agencies that are responsible for implementing federal laws like the Clean Air Act. The ruling was that judges should allow federal agencies to decide how to handle ambiguous federal laws.

The doctrine was viewed as a check on judicial activism.

“In this case, there was a rule requiring that the fishermen have a federal monitor on board to make sure they weren’t lying about the amount of fish they caught, but that it was ambiguous as to who pays this person,” Ross said.

“But (the law) doesn’t say anything about the fishing boat owners having to pay the salaries of those monitors,” McKenna responded.

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The fishermen involved in the lawsuit catch herring for lead plaintiff Loper Bright Enterprises of New Jersey. Other fishing groups have said federal rules unfairly require them to pay hundreds of dollars per day to contractors.

“So they’re saying that’s not in the statute,” McKenna said. “If Congress had wanted the fishing companies to have to pay the salaries of the monitors, it would have said so.”

The federal agency overseeing the fishermen, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, decided on its own that the fishing boat owners have to pay the cost of having those monitors on the boat.

“This case illustrates concerns that Democrats are given too much power under the Chevron Doctrine that they need to be reined in by judges,” McKenna explained.

Ross said that conservatives would probably want to eliminate this kind of federal overreach.

“We know this current Supreme Court isn’t shy about overturning previous decisions,” Ross said. “And now that it has a Republican majority, it sounds like there’s a good chance that this Chevron Decision will be overturned, and these bureaucrats will have a lot less authority.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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McKenna: SCOTUS case may lead to more power for judges