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SCOTUS Decisions Limit Judicial Deference to Agency Authority

By: Agnes Antonian, Christina Sartorio Ku, Meredith Rubin and Varronika Siryon

The U.S. Supreme Court late last month issued an opinion, Loper Bright Enters. v. Raimondo, which broadens federal judges’ authority when interpreting the functions of the federal government. Just a few days later the Supreme Court issued another opinion, Corner Post, Inc. v. Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Rsrv. Sys., holding that the Administrative Procedure Act’s (“APA”) six-year statute of limitations for a claim challenging the enforcement of a regulation begins on the date a plaintiff is injured by a final agency decision, not the date the regulation was issued. Together, these decisions significantly expand an individual’s ability to challenge agency actions in the interpretation and enforcement of their regulations.

Loper Bright Enters. v. Raimondo, 603 U.S. ___ (2024)

The Loper Bright opinion explicitly overrules the 40-year-old Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC, Inc. decision, which introduced a two-step framework known as “Chevron deference” that guided courts when reviewing an agency’s interpretation of a statute it administers. This approach required courts to first examine whether Congress had directly spoken to the precise question at issue. If Congress had not directly addressed the question, and the statute was silent or ambiguous with respect to the issue, a court was then required to examine whether the agency’s answer was rational. In other words, the court did not impose its interpretation, but instead deferred and accepted the administrative agency’s interpretation so long as it was reasonable.

In Loper Bright, the Supreme Court struck down Chevron and held that the APA requires courts to exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority. The opinion further held that courts may not defer to an agency’s interpretation of the law simply because a statute is ambiguous. The Court found that the APA’s language directs courts to: (1) decide all relevant questions of law that arise when reviewing an agency’s action, and (2) interpret constitutional and statutory provisions without differentiating between the two. In essence, although the Court may use an agency’s interpretation of a statute for guidance, the Court is not bound by that interpretation and ultimately has the final say.

As entities regulated by administrative agencies seek to test and navigate the limits of the new framework, Loper Bright will likely increase judicial scrutiny of agency actions. Loper Bright tasks Congress with specifically defining the scope of the authority it delegates to federal agencies when drafting bills to ensure the courts honor such delegations.

Corner Post, Inc. v. Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Rsrv. Sys., 603 U.S. ___ (2024)

Before the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Corner Post, an adopted rule or regulation had to be challenged within six years of its promulgation. Now, as Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the Corner Post majority, “an APA plaintiff does not have a complete and present cause of action until she suffers an injury from final agency action, so the statute of limitations does not begin to run until she is injured.”

Like the Loper Bright opinion, the holding in Corner Post increases the opportunity for litigants to challenge federal agency regulations. By expanding the timeframe to file a lawsuit, Corner Post accommodates entities that did not exist at the time a rule went into effect. As a result, entities can file suit against administrative agencies for federal rules finalized decades ago, inviting new challenges to long-established regulations.

However, the Court expressly held that the applicable statute of limitations applies generally to suits against the United States unless the timing provision of a more specific statute displaces it. For instance, Corner Post would not override the deadline to challenge certain agency actions as set forth in the Clean Water Act.

Please contact Connell Foley with questions about the implications of these historic decisions and what they may mean for you and your organization.

  • Agnes  Antonian

    As Chair of Connell Foley LLP's Environmental Law practice group, Agnes Antonian draws on her engineering background to address a broad range of complex environmental litigation and land use matters. Her environmental litigation ...

  • Christina Sartorio Ku

    Christina Ku is a profoundly experienced litigator who leverages her background in biological sciences and environmental regulation to represent parties in complex environmental cases. Her practice also includes significant ...

  • Meredith  Rubin

    Meredith Rubin is an associate practicing in Connell Foley LLP’s Commercial Litigation, Environmental Law, and Regulatory Affairs and Compliance Groups.

    Prior to joining the firm, Meredith served as a law clerk for the ...


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