On June 28, 2024, the Supreme Court made a significant decision in the cases of Relentless v. Department of Commerce and Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo. This decision overturned the 1984 Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. ruling. Previously, federal courts would defer to the interpretations of executive branch agencies when faced with ambiguous statutes under Chevron. However, the Supreme Court’s recent decision changes this practice.

The Court stated that federal agencies do not have special competence in resolving statutory ambiguities, and therefore, federal courts should not automatically defer to their interpretations. The Administrative Procedure Act mandates that the reviewing court, not the agency, should decide all relevant legal questions. This responsibility remains even when statutes are ambiguous, as it is up to the federal courts to interpret laws.

While older cases that relied on Chevron do not need to be overturned, the Court emphasized that courts must now exercise independent judgment in interpreting laws. Under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., courts may consider and give respectful thought to agency interpretations that can be persuasive. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the courts to make independent legal judgments.

The decisions in Relentless and Loper Bright are significant as they ensure that individuals and businesses can challenge executive branch actions without federal courts automatically deferring to agency interpretations. This levels the playing field and emphasizes the importance of judicial independence in interpreting laws.

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