NATIONAL NEWS

The Supreme Court takes up major challenges to the power of federal regulators

Jan 16, 2024, 9:11 PM

FILE - People stand on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb.11, 2022, in Washington. The Suprem...

FILE - People stand on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, Feb.11, 2022, in Washington. The Supreme Court is taking up challenges by commercial fishermen to a fee requirement that could achieve a long-sought goal of business and conservative interests, limiting a wide range of government regulations. Billions of dollars are potentially at stake. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday is taking up challenges by commercial fishermen to a fee requirement that could achieve a long-sought goal of business and conservative interests: limiting a wide swath of government regulations.

Billions of dollars are potentially at stake in front of a court that, like the rest of the federal judiciary, was remade during Donald Trump’s presidency by conservative interests that were motivated as much by weakening the regulatory state as social issues including abortion.

Lawyers for the fishermen are asking the justices to overturn a 40-year-old decision that is among the most frequently cited high court cases in support of regulatory power, including on the environment, public health, workplace safety and consumer protections.

Lower courts used the decision known colloquially as Chevron to uphold a 2020 National Marine Fisheries Service rule that herring fishermen pay for government-mandated observers who track their fish intake.

The 1984 decision states that when laws aren’t crystal clear, federal agencies should be allowed to fill in the details as long as they come up with a reasonable interpretation. “Judges are not experts in the field, and are not part of either political branch of government,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court in 1984, explaining why they should play a limited role. The court ruled 6-0, with three justices recused.

But the current high court, with a 6-3 conservative majority that includes three appointees of Trump, has been increasingly skeptical of the powers of federal agencies. At least four justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — have questioned the Chevron decision.

Opponents of the Chevron doctrine argue that judges apply it too often to rubber-stamp decisions made by government bureaucrats. Judges must exercise their own authority and judgment to say what the law is, the lawyers for the company that owns the Rhode Island based Relentless and Persistence fishing boats told the court.

They also say that agencies effectively act as judges in their own cases. “It is patently unfair for a court to defer to an agency’s interpretation in cases where the agency itself is a litigant, before that same court, in the actual case at hand,” the lawyers wrote.

Defending the rulings that upheld the fees, the Biden administration said that overturning the Chevron decision would produce a “convulsive shock” to the legal system.

“Chevron gives appropriate weight to the expertise, often of a scientific or technical nature, that federal agencies can bring to bear in interpreting federal statutes,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote on behalf of the administration.

Environmental, health advocacy groups, civil rights organizations, organized labor and Democrats on the national and state level are urging the court to leave the Chevron decision in place.

Gun, e-cigarette, farm, timber and home-building groups are among the business groups supporting the fishermen. Conservative interests that also intervened in recent high court cases limiting regulation of air and water pollution are backing the fishermen as well.

The justices are hearing two cases on the same issue. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is recused in one case, from New Jersey, because she took part in it at an earlier stage when she was an appeals court judge. The full court is participating in the case from Rhode Island, which the justices added to their docket several months later.

National News

Associated Press

Insider Q&A: Trust and safety exec talks about AI and content moderation

Alex Popken was a longtime trust and safety executive at Twitter focusing on content moderation before leaving in 2023. She was the first employee there dedicated to moderating Twitter’s advertising business when she started in 2013. Now, she’s vice president of trust and safety at WebPurify, a content moderation service provider that works with businesses […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit alleges negligence in hiring of maintenance man accused of torturing resident

BALTIMORE (AP) — April Hurley’s attacker entered her apartment after identifying himself as the building maintenance man — a job he should never have obtained, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that accuses the property owner and management company of engaging in negligent hiring practices. Once inside the apartment, Jason Billingsley tortured Hurley and her […]

3 hours ago

Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press

Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

Trump tried to illegally influence the 2016 election by preventing damaging stories about himself from becoming public, a prosecutor said.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden will send Ukraine air defense weapons, artillery once Senate approves, Zelenskyy says

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will send badly needed air defense weaponry once the Senate approves a massive national security aid package that includes $61 billion for Ukraine. Zelensky said in a posting on X that Biden also assured him that a coming package of […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

The fatal shooting of an Ohio officer during a training exercise being probed as a possible homicide

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The fatal shooting of an Ohio officer during a training exercise at a state corrections department facility earlier this month is being investigated as a possible reckless homicide, according to a published report. The Columbus Dispatch said the information is included in a heavily redacted 18-page report it received from the […]

4 hours ago

supreme court homelessness...

Lindsay Whitehurst

With homelessness on the rise, the Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

The Supreme Court will consider whether banning homeless people from sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

4 hours ago

The Supreme Court takes up major challenges to the power of federal regulators