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Latham Wins Historic US Supreme Court Decision Overturning Chevron Deference

June 28, 2024
Landmark holding of administrative law will recalibrate the balance of power between agencies and courts.

The US Supreme Court sided with our client Relentless, Inc. in its decision in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce overruling the Chevron doctrine. Chevron required courts to defer to Executive Branch agencies when resolving the meaning of ambiguous statutes. Latham partner Roman Martinez argued one of the cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of Relentless Inc., a small New England fishing company that had challenged an agency rule requiring private fishing companies to pay for expensive at-sea government observers to ride on their vessels and collect data on federal fisheries. The relevant statute authorizes the federal observers, but is silent as to who pays their fees. The lower courts had upheld the rule under Chevron, finding that the statute was ambiguous and deferring to the agency’s interpretation.

The Supreme Court held that under the Administrative Procedure Act, courts must exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority. Courts therefore cannot defer to an agency interpretation of a statute simply because a statute is ambiguous. The Court concluded that Chevron was wrongly decided, unworkable, and destructive of reliance interests. Because the stare decisis factors cut against Chevron, the Court overruled the doctrine. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the cases will now return to the lower courts, where the agency will no longer be able to rely on Chevron.

The decision is a landmark holding of administrative law that will recalibrate the balance of power between agencies and courts. Its implications will likely be felt across virtually every federal agency. 

The Latham team representing Relentless, Inc. also included associates Charlie Dameron, Mike Clemente, Bill Seidleck, Alex Siemers, and Jack Shapiro, working alongside co-counsel at the New Civil Liberties Alliance.