Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Fishermen Cases

Photo by Paul Einerhand on Unsplash

( – On Friday, June 28, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of fishermen who had challenged a legal doctrine that for decades has allowed the administrative state to have power over their work. 

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson did not participate in a 6-2 ruling, where the majority argued that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had been out of bounds for promulgating a $700 per day fee on the fishermen for an “at-sea monitor.”  They argued this fee was out of bounds for what Congress had set for the agency. 

In January, the justices heard the arguments of two cases from Rhode Island and New Jersey fishermen, which alleged that the rule has been threatening their business.

The decision by the Supreme Court has overruled what is known as the Chevron doctrine, a 1980s legal theory that stated that in cases of challenges to federal regulation, the courts are typically required to defer to the interpretation of the agency regarding any ambiguities. The only exceptions are if the agency’s interpretation is unreasonable and if Congress has already addressed the ambiguity.

In the majority ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts, he wrote that Chevron was overruled. He further wrote that the courts needed to be able to exercise independent judgment on whether or not a certain agency’s actions were within its statutory authority. According to him, courts should “respect the delegation” of authority to an agency within reason, but this doesn’t mean that courts should “defer” to the interpretation of that agency just because of an ambiguity in the law.

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