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Public Interest Groups Panic SCOTUS Isn’t Done Beating Up the Executive Branch

The Supreme Court is set to rule on yet another case that could bring decades-old regulations back into the legal fray.

Supreme Court
The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a law firm that brought one of the Chevron cases, filed an amicus brief in another case on the administrative state before the Supreme Court. Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Overturning Chevron deference isn’t the end of the road for the conservative legal movement. The next blow for government agencies may be just around the corner, public interest groups warn.

Groups like the nonpartisan American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the progressive group Public Citizen shuddered at the court’s ruling Friday, which overturned a 40-year-old precedent and decisively shifted power away from the executive branch and to the court.

“There’s just no room to go backward when it comes to ensuring people have access to screenings and treatment or time to wait for delays in approving cancer-fighting drugs,” Mary Rouvelas, a managing lawyer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told NOTUS in a statement. “But that’s exactly what this decision now threatens to do. Any ruling that puts access to health care at risk puts lives at risk.”

And public interest groups know there’s more to come.

“I am discouraged that the Court continues to undermine the agency’s ability to issue rules to protect public health, safety, environment, and consumer finances,” Allison Zieve, litigation director at Public Citizen, wrote to NOTUS. “And I fear that it is not finished doing so.”

The court is set to rule on a separate case Monday — Corner Post v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System — that could change the parameters of the current six-year statute of limitations for companies that are currently restricted by to challenge government regulations.The case has the potential to put decades of old regulations back on the table for legal challenge.

The Chevron ruling also comes on the heels of SCOTUS’ Thursday ruling on SEC v. Jarkesy, requiring government agencies to defend civil penalties at more expensive and time-intensive jury trials instead of in-house legal proceedings.

“Like the Jarkesy decision from yesterday, this decision increases the courts’ authority at the expense of the other branches,” Zieve said.

Judges will likely be the ones to parse out the specifics of ambiguous laws — and potentially very old ones — unless Congress makes a radical change to how it functions, experts have previously told NOTUS.

“I was just stunned by this,” Reshma Ramachandran, co-director at a Yale regulatory research group who opposes overturning Chevron, told NOTUS Friday. “The Supreme Court is indicating that the judiciary is the competent entity, not the executive branch and other federal agencies that have been set up by Congress to be able to rule on these matters.”

Meanwhile, supporters of overturning Chevron — who argue that government agency power has grown beyond what was originally intended in the Constitution — are celebrating their string of wins and eyeing more on the horizon.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a law firm that brought one of the Chevron cases and filed an amicus brief in the Corner Post case, said Friday, “NCLA celebrates this monumental victory, which will curtail abuses of administrative power for years to come.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, for his part, directly addressed allegations of the court making a power grab.

“The dissent ends by quoting Chevron: ‘Judges are not experts in the field.’ That depends, of course, on what the ‘field’ is. If it is legal interpretation, that has been, ‘emphatically,’ ‘the province and duty of the judicial department’ for at least 221 years,” Roberts wrote.

Claire Heddles is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.