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.
A Landmark Case
Signed into law in 1984, the so-called Chevron law is one of the most cited precedents in American jurisprudence.
Two Birds With One Gavel
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.
Agencies Have Agency
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.
Congress Can Be Vague
So, for example, congress might pass a broad law stating that all food sold in American stores have to display information about where each ingredient came from.
Can’t Be Bothered With the Details
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.
FDA in Charge
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.
Oh, So Reasonable
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.
Something Fishy With Chevron
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 who’s forcing the companies to pay.
Supreme Court to Decide
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.
Changing the Balance of Power
If the court overturns Chevron, then they have effectively given the power to make detailed decisions about big business to the courts themselves.
A Logistical Nightmare
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.
Agencies Would Wither Away
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.
Big Business in Charge
The end result could be big business calling their own shots in a more deregulated landscape than we’ve seen in decades, if not centuries.
Trump’s Influence at Work
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.
A Strange New World
And though the public outcry might not be as vocal or contentious as the one over abortion right, a world without Chevron could look very different for just about all Americans.
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