These cases are the latest salvo in special interest efforts to stop government agencies from being able to deliver for people in ways big and small. The Supreme Court will decide whether to overturn precedent from a seminal case that has defined administrative law for nearly four decades, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. So-called “Chevron deference”—which requires that courts defer to reasonable interpretations of laws by agency experts when the law is ambiguous or unclear—is one of the most important principles in administrative law.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
These cases could fundamentally redefine one of the major institutions the government uses to deliver for people: the so-called “administrative state.” Typically, when Congress enacts a new statute, such as to ensure workers are paid fair wages or to fund programs protecting seniors, it authorizes a federal agency to decide and implement the details. For decades, when reviewing legal challenges to these agency decisions, precedent has required that judges defer to the experts in federal agencies so long as the experts’ decisions were reasonable. This deference prevents unaccountable judges with little policy expertise from making policy decisions about how an agency can best fulfill Congress’ charges to their agencies and serve people.
If the Court overturns Chevron, it will give itself and anti-democratic activist judges even more power and open up a massive range of democratically-enacted policies to attack. The real-world implications of undermining the government’s ability to deliver for people could open up critical efforts to even more litigation, create uncertainty, and give judges even more power to impose their ideology on a wide range of issues, including:
- Setting overtime protections for workers
- Deciding which vaccines should be covered by health insurers
- Establishing protections from toxic pollution in the air we breathe and the water we drink
- Setting baseline standards for federally-funded schools
- Responding to gun violence in the absence of Congressional action
We are at a pivotal point for trust in our democratic institutions. Further roadblocks only work to erode public faith and disillusion people across the country.
WHO IS INVOLVED
People Defending Progress:
A broad range of voices and interests support the government’s ability to deliver for people. That includes small business owners we represented in a brief that warns the Supreme Court that upending regulatory certainty would hurt small businesses across the country:
“Overturning this Court’s nearly 40-year precedent as outlined in Chevron, as requested by Petitioners, would create untenable uncertainty for the world of small business. This Court should decline the invitation to do so.”
Additionally, health advocacy groups including the American Cancer Society, the AFL-CIO, environmental advocates, a coalition of scientists including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and others have weighed in through friend of the court briefs.
Extremists Attacking Democracy:
The same highly-coordinated, well-funded anti-democratic extremists pushing the Big Lie have submitted friend of the court briefs in this matter. In fact, John Eastman, who was recently indicted alongside former-President Trump for alleged election subversion efforts in Georgia, is representing one of the organizations who submitted a brief attacking democracy.
Another group that has submitted a brief to the Supreme Court here was founded by two former senior Trump Administration officials, and it is currently planning for a second Trump term and advocating for proposals that would effectively allow for purging the civil service.
The truth is, beyond suppressing votes, there is a concerted, anti-democratic effort by the far right to undermine the power of the federal government when it is doing something the far right does not like (relieving student debt, stopping financial fraud, or reducing water pollution). For more information on other legal theories the far right is using to advance this movement, make sure to read our People’s Guide to the Anti-Democratic Legal Playbook.