Can the Chevron Doctrine Survive Recent Challenges Brought Before the Supreme Court?

By Danny Kennedy, Staff Writer

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The Chevron deference Doctrine (“Chevron Doctrine”) is a powerful legal precedent used when agency actions are under judicial review, where courts defer to the agency decision should it be a permissible construction of congressional intent.[1] This doctrine has allowed for agencies to regulate with ease for years, however, it is now subject to legitimate attacks at the Supreme Court level, and given the current Justices’ attitudes in oral arguments, the fate of the doctrine itself looks dire.[2]

Since 1984 the American legal system has followed precedent set in landmark administrative law case, Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. National Resources Defense Council, Inc.[3], the subsequent legal rule aptly being referred to as the “Chevron Doctrine.”[4] The Chevron Doctrine first examines whether Congress has directly spoken to the question at issue, precluding the agency from acting, and the court from judicial review as a result.[5] If Congress has not directly spoken to the question at issue, with the statute at hand being silent or ambiguous, the question for the court becomes whether the agency’s action is within a permissible construction of the statute.[6] If the agency’s action is reasonable, the court will defer to the action, as long as it is not arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute in question.[7]

Since its establishment, the Chevron Doctrine has allowed for executive agencies to act, with courts rarely, if ever, finding an agency action arbitrary and capricious. One of the most prominent, and only, examples of the Supreme Court not deferring to an agency decision comes from Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n of the U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Company.[8] The Supreme Court did not defer to the agency’s action because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) “failed to offer the rational connection between facts and judgment required to pass muster under the arbitrary and capricious standard.”[9] The failure came in the form of the NHTSA ending the requirement of fixed (non-detachable) seatbelts in new automobiles simply because of a potential fear individuals could be trapped in their cars after vehicle accidents.[10] By not analyzing the issue further or even attempting to explain its change in status regarding seatbelts, the agency became one of the only to have the Supreme Court not defer to their rulemaking action. [11]

While the Chevron Doctrine has given agencies great power to regulate, it has been subject to some limits over the years, without the Supreme Court tackling the doctrine itself head on. For example, in United States v. Mead Corp.,[12] the Supreme Court held that Chevron will only apply to agency actions made through formal regulations and adjudicatory processes.[13] More recently, the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA,[14] had dire implications for the Chevron Doctrine’s longevity, now requiring that the judicial task in reviewing agency actions include a more stringent review of statutory language and legislative history before deferring to the agency.[15]

A narrowing scope and heightened standard of review both limited the powerful doctrine, but the Court had not confronted the question of whether the Chevron Doctrine should be overturned all together, until Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo.[16] The case was granted certiorari from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, wherein the Court of Appeals found it reasonable under the Chevron Doctrine for the government to require commercial fishing vessels to have and compensate federal at-sea monitors when their fleets are in operation.[17] Oral arguments on the case were held on January 17, 2024, and if the arguments were any indication, the majority of Justices do not view Chevron in a favorable light.[18] Paul Clement, arguing for the fishing industries argued that Chevron afforded too much power to executive agencies, and its two-step process is fundamentally flawed.[19] Upon his conclusion, it appeared that the majority agreed with him, with only the three liberal justices making any counterarguments throughout the session.[20]

The Supreme Court’s decision can be expected by the last day of the Court’s term, usually around late June or early July, unless the Court takes it upon itself to release an opinion sooner.[21] But given the Chevron Doctrine’s troubled history and Justices’ attitudes in recent oral arguments and decisions, all signs point to this extremely powerful legal precedent being overturned.



[3] 467 U.S. 837 (1984).

[4] See Congressional Research Service, Chevron Deference: A Primer, (May 18, 2023),

[5] Chevron, 467 U.S. 837, 842-843.

[6] Id. at 843.

[7] Id. at 844.

[8] 463 U.S. 29 (1983).

[9] Id. at 56.

[10] 463 U.S. 29, at 55.

[11] Id. at 56.

[12] 533 U.S. 218, 236 (2001).

[13] Id.

[14] 598 U.S. 651 (2023).

[15] Id. at 681.

[16] 143 S. Ct. 2429 (2023).

[17] Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc. v. Raimondo, 45 F.3th 359 (2022).


[19] Id. at 88-89.

[20] Id. at 9-12.


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