Supreme Court Applies Chevron Deference To Agency’s Interpretation Of Statutory Jurisdiction


On May 20, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Chevron deference applies to an agency’s interpretation of its own statutory jurisdiction. City of Arlington v. FCC, 569 U.S. ___ (May 20, 2013). In this case, two Texas localities challenged the FCC’s ability to administer part of the Communications Act of 1934, arguing that an agency’s interpretation of a statutory ambiguity that concerns the scope of its statutory authority is a jurisdictional issue and that Chevron should not apply. The Court disagreed and stated that there is no basis for carving out an arbitrary subset of “jurisdictional” questions from the Chevron framework. To hold otherwise, the Court reasoned, would be to accept a false dichotomy between “jurisdictional” and “nonjurisdictional” agency interpretations, and transfer certain interpretive decisions from the agencies that administer the statutes to the federal courts. Although decided in the context of an action taken by the FCC, this is a broad administrative law decision that will affect regulated entities’ ability to challenge certain regulatory actions taken by other federal agencies.

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