Montana Joins Amicus Brief Asking Supreme Court to Rein in Administrative State, Uphold Separation of Powers

Attorney General Tim Fox today joined a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Chevron deference, the doctrine that requires federal courts to defer to agency interpretations of statutes. Attorney General Fox urged the high court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision in United Parcel Service v. Postal Regulatory Commission, which deferred to an administrative agency’s view of the law without analyzing the underlying statute Congress passed.

Rather than simply interpret the statute at issue based on its plain language, the Court deferred to the federal agency’s interpretation of that statute. The Supreme Court’s decision in Chevron v. Natural Resource Defense Counsel held that when a statute is ambiguous or does not clearly grant authority for a particular issue, courts defer to agency interpretations. “The doctrine has been very confusing to apply, has produced inconsistent results, and is detrimental to the States and principles of federalism,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “It is time for the Supreme Court to overrule Chevron and put an end to the power that unelected federal bureaucrats currently have to interpret the law; that would be step in the right direction for federalism and for State’s rights.”

Chevron deference originated in the 1984 Supreme Court case, requiring federal courts to uphold reasonable agency interpretations of congressional statutes considered ambiguous, even if the court’s own interpretation would be different. This practice is a significant departure from the judiciary’s traditional role of “saying what the law is.” There has also been little agreement among courts as to what should qualify as ambiguous.

A copy of the brief is available here.