Ann Turner
January 18, 2024

Supreme Court moves to yank back federal powers

In a landmark session, the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative justices signaled their readiness to reassess a longstanding legal doctrine crucial to federal regulatory power.

This reevaluation may significantly impact areas such as artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, and environmental protection.

The doctrine, known as Chevron deference, has been a cornerstone of administrative law for decades. It requires courts to defer to federal agencies' interpretations of ambiguous laws. This principle has given presidential administrations substantial leeway in regulating various aspects of daily life. The arguments, lasting over three hours, centered on the Biden administration's staunch defense of this doctrine.

Justices Debate Over Chevron's Future

During the hearing, the conservative justices, including Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, expressed skepticism about the Chevron deference's continued viability. Gorsuch, in particular, criticized the government's frequent successes under this precedent, asking, “Should that be a clue that something needs to be fixed here?”

However, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar defended the doctrine, describing it as "a bedrock principle of administrative law." She argued that overruling such a foundational precedent would require extraordinary justification, which the petitioners lacked.

Liberal Justices Defend Agency Expertise

On the other side, the court's liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, advocated for retaining Chevron, emphasizing agency expertise in complex policy issues. Justice Jackson, in particular, voiced concerns about the court potentially becoming a policymaker without Chevron. She stated, “My concern is that if we take away something like Chevron, the court will then suddenly become a policymaker.”

Justice Kagan also highlighted the importance of agency expertise through a hypothetical scenario involving the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the classification of a cholesterol reducer. She argued that in such complex cases, agency expertise is preferable to judicial interpretation.

The Skidmore Standard: A Potential Alternative?

The justices deliberated on replacing the Chevron standard with the Skidmore standard, which emphasizes an agency's argument's persuasiveness rather than its controlling power. Justice Kavanaugh described this alternative, noting its focus on the power to persuade.

This discussion arose in the context of two nearly identical cases involving herring fishermen. These cases, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce, challenge a rule about funding federal monitors onboard fishing vessels. Decisions on these cases are expected by the end of June.

Concerns Over Systemic Shock and Litigation

Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett expressed concerns about the potential systemic shock that overturning Chevron might cause. Critics of Chevron argue that it leads judges to relinquish their role in interpreting law and creates ambiguity in statute interpretation.

Chief Justice John Roberts questioned if Chevron had already been effectively overruled, as the Supreme Court hasn't invoked it since 2016. The potential overruling of Chevron could lead to extensive litigation, given the doctrine's widespread impact on regulatory matters.

Stone's Alleged Assassination Plot Investigated

Simultaneously, the Capitol Police, with assistance from the FBI, are investigating a disturbing audio recording involving Roger Stone, a known pro-Trump political operative. This recording suggests a potential assassination plot against House Democrats Jerry Nadler and Eric Swalwell.

The recording, made weeks before the 2020 election and published by Mediaite, has escalated concerns among law enforcement and lawmakers.

Stone, in the recording, appears to suggest that either Swalwell or Nadler "has to die" before the election. This alarming statement has prompted a serious investigation by the Capitol Police, supplemented by the FBI. However, both agencies have refrained from commenting on the ongoing investigation.

Stone Denies Allegations, Swalwell Responds

Stone has denied making these comments, claiming the recording is a fabricated AI-generated fraud. He has a history of attributing similar comments to "deep fakes." On the other hand, Eric Swalwell, in a statement to Mediaite, emphasized the gravity of the threat and the need for bipartisan condemnation.

The conversation, which also involved former NYPD officer Sal Greco, has further complicated Stone's already controversial public persona. Greco, who was dismissed from the NYPD due to his association with Stone, did not deny the conversation but downplayed its significance.

Broader Implications for Stone and Lawmakers

Both Swalwell and Nadler, members of the House Judiciary Committee, have had previous encounters with Stone. Stone was convicted in connection with the Mueller Russia investigation, and his sentence was later commuted by President Trump. Nadler had announced an investigation into Stone's sentence commutation months before this audio surfaced.

In addition to the assassination plot, Mediaite reported another conversation involving Stone and Greco about abducting and punishing Aaron Zelinsky, the prosecutor in Stone's case. These revelations have only added to the ongoing turmoil surrounding Stone's legal and political dealings.

  • The Supreme Court is reconsidering the Chevron deference, affecting regulatory power in areas like AI and environmental protection.
  • Justice Gorsuch questioned the government's frequent wins under Chevron, while Solicitor General Prelogar defended its necessity.
  • Liberal justices emphasized the importance of agency expertise in complex issues.
  • The Skidmore standard was discussed as an alternative to Chevron.
  • Roger Stone is under investigation for an alleged assassination plot against House Democrats.
  • Stone denies the allegations, claiming the recording is an AI-generated fraud.
  • Swalwell and Nadler, targets in the alleged plot, have past connections with Stone.
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