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January 1, Fishermen Take Chevron Fight to Supreme Court

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Attorneys representing Northeastern fishermen are heading to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, seeking to overturn the 40-year-old precedent most commonly cited to support federal agency regulatory power. A group of fishermen from New Jersey are challenging a Commerce Department regulation through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which required their boats to pay roughly $700 per day to fund the salary of human “at-sea” monitors for each fishing venture.

The heart of the case asks the court to overturn the 1984 precedent from a case called Chevron U. S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. The core of the Chevron doctrine states that if a federal rule is challenged in court, the court should defer to the agency and its “reasonable” interpretation of the congressional statute it says grants them permission to create the rule.

“You can’t even promise to pay the crew $780 per day,” Jerry Leman, founder of the New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association, told the Washington Examiner, referring to the financial setbacks on his business by the required at-sea monitors. Leman’s group filed an amicus brief to the high court asking it to curb the Biden administration’s power over the fishing industry.

The 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act is the primary law that allows at-sea observers to board private fishing boats in U. S. federal waters. While its objective was to prevent overfishing, Leman contends fishermen should never be the ones to front the bill to pay for the government’s monitoring work. “We’re pumping more money into their program than we are paying our own crews,” Leman said.

The challenge against the at-sea monitors eventually reached the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which held that the statute was ambiguous on the question of monitor salary. But under the Chevron deference, that meant the government won.

Lawyers for the New Jersey fishermen will tell the nine justices the payment mandate violates Article 1 of the Constitution and that the court should overturn Chevron, an outcome that court watchers say could be a stretch too far even for the Roberts Court, positing that the justices might go as far as to find a replacement for Chevron.

Representing the New Jersey fishermen will be veteran attorney Paul Clement, a former solicitor general under the Bush administration. Another lawsuit brought by fishermen based in Rhode Island will be argued by attorneys for the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

The high court’s two argument hearings on Wednesday will focus on the question of Chevron’s fate, meaning the justices will be toiling over the matter for several hours. “Overruling Chevron is overdue,” said Mark Chenoweth, president of NCLA. “Many administrative state pathologies can be traced to the malign influence that Chevron has in encouraging unlawful administrative power grabs. By putting this genie back in the bottle, the Supreme Court can restore federal court oversight to ensure that agencies execute the law as Congress wrote it.”

The Justice Department’s position will be headed by Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar in the pair of back-to-back oral arguments. Prelogar has said overruling Chevron would be a “convulsive shock” to the legal system. “All three branches of government, regulated parties, and the public have arranged their affairs for decades with Chevron as the backdrop against which Congress legislates, agencies issue rules and orders, and courts resolve disputes about those agency actions,” she wrote in a brief in the Loper Bright case.

Chevron doctrine critics see the challenge as a way to rein in meddling federal bureaucrats, symptoms of a creeping administrative state in which regulatory overreach is rampant, while defenders of the doctrine worry the 6-3 conservative high court majority is poised effectively to let business interests kill off environmental and other expertly crafted regulations created for the public interest.

Business groups ranging from farm, timber, and home-building sectors are backing the efforts by the fishermen. Meanwhile, conservative interests that have recently scored victories limiting regulation of air and water pollution are hoping to see another domino fall against the administrative state.

“Chevron deference is a pernicious doctrine that has enabled federal agencies to take over the courts’ power to interpret the law and Congress’ power to legislate,” Carrie Severino, president of the conservative legal advocacy group JCN, told the Washington Examiner. “To its credit, the Supreme Court has not applied Chevron in recent years, but lower courts nonetheless continue to rely on it, creating confusion and inconsistency in the law.”

Groups that favor the government’s position in the dispute, such as the Center For American Progress, say that the real goal of the cases is to give “unelected judges free rein to implement their own partisan policy agendas and disregard scientific analysis, the opinions of policy experts, and the will of Congress.”

If the justices rule the way the fishermen are calling on them to, then the upheaval of Chevron could lead to a “geometric increase in court challenges to federal rules,” Steve O’Day, a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell and head of the firm’s Environmental Law, Energy, and Sustainability practice, told the Washington Examiner.

“Ending the so-called Chevron deference could have dramatic effects on judicial treatment of expansive federal regulatory programs, but those effects could be favorable or unfavorable to regulated businesses, depending on the rules being challenged,” O’Day said.

Leman said his hopes are for the court to deliver a ruling in favor of the fishing groups, adding the current Chevron framework isn’t cutting it for businesses across the nation. “I should be paying attention to my vessel and the safety of my crew, but now I have to babysit a child,” Leman said of the fishing monitors.

The first argument on Wednesday will be over Relentless v. Dept. of Commerce, the Rhode Island fishermen, while the second hearing will be Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, fishermen from New Jersey.

Why It Matters (op-ed)

The Supreme Court’s decision on the Chevron case will have far-reaching consequences for the balance of power between federal agencies and businesses. Overturning the precedent could give businesses the upper hand in challenging excessive regulations and restore the division of authority between the government and private sector.

We cannot continue to allow federal agencies to impose burdensome regulations without proper judicial oversight. The case of the New Jersey fishermen highlights the need for change: these hardworking individuals are being forced to pay more for government-imposed monitors than their own crew. This is an abuse of power that must be addressed, and it begins with reexamining the Chevron doctrine.

As our loyal readers, we encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions on this issue. Let your voice be heard and join the discussion below.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Hate liars

    January 23, 2024 at 7:13 pm

    Don’t count on the Supreme Court! They are working with the democrats to destroy the food supply and chain! Joe Biden wants all Americans on their knees to bow down to that little cockroach. Court won’t even stand up for America’s borders.

  2. Taxpayer

    January 23, 2024 at 8:13 pm

    We are a regulation nation.

  3. David Campbell

    January 24, 2024 at 7:28 am

    Couldn’t one ‘fed’ examine the catch of each boat that returns to a harbor?

    • Steven

      January 25, 2024 at 2:25 pm

      Even if that isn’t a reasonable option, the broader issue is if the regulators can require the boats to pay for monitors on the boat. That brings upt the even broader issue of taking the agencies word for what the legislation allows them to so.
      I would argue that as the accuser, the regulatory agency should be presumed NOT to have any authority until they prove they do.

  4. John Ahlstrand

    January 24, 2024 at 7:47 am

    I don’t understand a group of left wing people don’t see what damage is being done on both sides no matter side or party your on.They come in and with-out any analyses study will take your money just to save Mother Earth! And of course any money into their earthly foundation high pockets. We have 10 more months of Mr. Potato Head and his crew of earth saving “foundations” all made up to collect where Biden has F’ed the system to the point of NO return in many areas and needs the money. Of you don’t understand that just like all the other intrusion’s by this administration of Communism standing behind false flags wait for about the on going damage to come in before the years up of product’s and ideas never tested and WILL fail.All the the left will tell you is that they tried and you and I shod be on are knees thanking them no matter how it comes out. Help these people in the fishing industry in any way you can,these people have been doing the work that many could not handle for one day let alone 5 Min. so we can have fresh seafood,not only for home but having a fine meal outing,(what a sin). Get these pink’o commie activists off the back of people of the fishing industry of thousand’s of years so the left can’t make another squandered buck!

  5. MICHAEL KELLEY

    January 24, 2024 at 1:57 pm

    This is how Biden thinks he’s creating jobs.

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