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High Court Majority Shows No Eagerness To Overturn Chevron

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared split about whether decades-old precedent that favors federal agencies' legal interpretations in rulemaking infringes on judges' rightful authority to decide questions of law.

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday is hearing oral arguments in two cases challenging precedent that favors federal agencies' legal interpretations in rulemaking.

Over about three and a half hours of oral arguments, the justices explored several avenues of legal theory in two cases brought by plaintiffs that want them to overturn or narrow the precedent set in 1984's Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, which established that federal judges must defer to agencies' "reasonable" legal interpretations of ambiguous laws in litigation over rulemaking.

As the day's arguments drew to a close, it seemed like a majority of justices might be open to restricting the use of the Chevron doctrine similarly to the way they curtailed the use of Auer deference in 2019's Kisor v. Wilkie. Justice Amy Coney Barrett even contemplated "Kisorizing" the Chevron doctrine, a term Justice Elena Kagan promptly adopted.

Key areas the justices expressed interest in during oral arguments included how to define ambiguity; whether without Chevron judges might impose their own policy preferences; how Chevron deference differs from other accepted forms of judicial deference; what could happen to past cases decided under Chevron; and what kinds of new guardrails could solve some of the problems identified by the petitioners in the cases.


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