Supreme Court Overrules Chevron Doctrine, Redefining Agency Power

Supreme Court Overrules Chevron Doctrine, Redefining Agency Power

On Friday, June 28, 2024, the Supreme Court significantly diminished the power of federal agencies to interpret the laws they administer, mandating that courts should rely on their own interpretations of ambiguous laws. This decision is poised to have widespread effects across various sectors, including environmental regulation, workplace safety, and healthcare costs.

Historical Context and Implications

The 1984 Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council decision established the Chevron doctrine and became one of the most frequently cited rulings on federal administrative law, referenced over 18,000 times by federal courts. The doctrine required judges to defer to agencies for their reasonable interpretations of congressional statutes. A recent case involving challenges to a National Marine Fisheries Service rule, which required the herring industry to bear costs associated with monitoring for overfishing, became the focal point for reevaluating Chevron. Two federal courts of appeals upheld the agency’s rule, prompting commercial fishing companies to seek Supreme Court intervention.

The Decision

The justices overruled the 1984 decision by a 6-3 vote. In a 35-page opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the justices considered the doctrine “fundamentally misguided.”

Chief Justice Roberts’ Opinion

Roberts argued that Chevron deference contradicts the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which directs courts to “decide legal questions by applying their own judgment.” He asserted that agency interpretations of statutes are not entitled to deference and that courts, not agencies, should resolve ambiguities in federal laws. Roberts acknowledged that while courts can consider agency interpretations, they must ultimately exercise independent judgment.

Dissenting Opinion

Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, dissented. Kagan warned the ruling would create “a massive shock to the legal system,” emphasizing it undermines the role of agencies with technical and scientific expertise in interpreting complex regulatory laws.


The Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the Chevron doctrine marks a significant shift in the balance of power between federal agencies and the judiciary. While proponents argue it restores judicial authority and checks agency overreach, critics fear it could lead to inconsistent legal interpretations and undermine the expertise of specialized agencies. As the implications of this decision unfold, its impact on regulatory practices and legal interpretations will be closely watched.

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