US Supreme Court Overturns Chevron Deference

By and on July 1, 2024

In Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, the US Supreme Court expressly overruled the doctrine of deferring to an agency’s interpretation of allegedly ambiguous statutory language initially articulated in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.

Under the Chevron doctrine, courts applied a two-step framework interpreting statutes administered by federal agencies. The first step asks whether Congress had “directly spoken to the precise question at issue.” Chevron, 467 U.S. at 842. If the statute is clear as to the interpretive question at issue, courts are bound by and must apply the clear meaning of the statute. If, however, the statute is ambiguous or silent, then courts proceed to the second step where they defer to the agency’s interpretation provided it is “based on a permissible construction of the statute.” Id. at 843.

This doctrine of deference, Loper Bright held, is at odds with the imperative that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) gives to reviewing courts to “decide all relevant questions of law” and “interpret . . . statutory provisions.” 5 U.S.C. § 706 (emphasis added). Because Chevron required reviewing courts to give “binding deference to agency interpretations” instead of exercising their “independent judgment” as to the best reading of the statute, that doctrine “defies the command of the APA” by ceding the authority to decide some questions of statutory interpretation – those involving ambiguous statutes – to agencies. See Slip Op. 21; see also Slip Op. 14 (observing that § 706 “prescribes no deferential standard” for courts to apply when interpreting ambiguous statutes).

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Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes is the co-head of the Firm’s practices focusing on Supreme Court & Appellate Litigation as well as Government & Regulatory Litigation. He briefs and argues complex appeals, and he develops legal strategy before trial courts, including strategic affirmative litigation. Paul serves as an elected member of the Firm’s Management Committee. Read Paul Hughes's full bio.

Sarah P. Hogarth
Sarah P. Hogarth is a member of the Firm’s Supreme Court & Appellate Litigation and Government & Regulatory Litigation practices. She briefs and argues appeals and critical motions, litigates affirmative cases challenging federal and state government action and advises on legal strategy and dispositive motions in trial courts or before administrative tribunals.Read Sarah P. Hogarth's full bio.