City of Arlington v. FCC

by Walter Olson on May 21, 2013

By a 6-3 vote yesterday, the Supreme Court decided that agencies deserve deference in determining the scope of their own jurisdiction. Bad move, argues Ilya Shapiro at Cato:

…why should courts defer to agency determinations regarding their own authority? … Whether a government body uses its power wisely or not, it cannot possibly be the judge of whether it has that power to begin with. Yet Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, essentially says that there’s no such thing as a dispute over whether an agency has power to regulate in a given area, just clear congressional lines of authority and ambiguous ones, with agencies having free rein in the latter circumstance unless their actions are “arbitrary and capricious” (what lawyers call Chevron deference, after a foundational 1984 case involving the oil company).

That makes no sense. As Cato explained in our brief, since the theory of deference is based on Congress’s affirmative grant of power to an agency over a defined jurisdiction, it’s incoherent to say that the failure to provide such power is an equal justification for deference. Furthermore, granting an agency deference over its own jurisdiction is an open invitation for agencies to aggrandize power that Congress never intended them to have. One doesn’t need a doctorate in public choice economics to recognize that we need checks on those who wield power because it’s in their nature to husband and grow that power.

Read the whole thing here.

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