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In a six to three decision the Supreme Court of the United States overturn the Chevron doctrine, which was named after the 1984 landmark case Chevron v Natural Resources Defense Council.  There was a general feeling among courts that they should respect the interpretations of the Executive Branch of government, which is charged with the responsibility of carrying out the will of Congress.  Moreover, the courts reasoned when Congress created special agencies to administer certain programs, there was an expectation that these agencies would have an expertise that the courts lacked, and great deference should be given to the opinions of those experts. These concepts gave rise to the Chevron doctrine, which “rested on a presumption that Congress, when it left ambiguity in a statute meant for implementation by an agency, understood that the ambiguity would be resolved, first and foremost, by the agency, and desired the agency (rather than the 

courts) to possess whatever degree of discretion the ambiguity allows.” Consequently, the Chevron doctrine directed courts to uphold an agency’s interpretation of a statute if the interpretation was reasonable and the question at the center of the dispute was not directly addressed by Congress.  

However, the Supreme Court in its decision in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, 603 U. S. ____ (2024), explained that the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) “requires courts to exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority, and the courts may not defer to an agency interpretation of the law simply because a statute is ambiguous.”  The Court noted:

The APA prescribes procedures for agency action and delineates the basic contours of judicial review of such action. And it codifies for agency cases the unremarkable, yet elemental proposition reflected by judicial practice dating back to Marbury: that courts decide legal questions by applying their own judgment. As relevant here, the APA 

specifies that courts, not agencies, will decide “all relevant questions of law” arising on review of agency action, 5 U. S. C. §706 (emphasis added)—even those involving ambiguous laws. It prescribes no deferential standard for courts to employ in answering those legal questions, despite mandating deferential judicial review of agency policymaking and factfinding. See §§706(2)(A), (E). And by directing courts to “interpret constitutional and statutory provisions” without differentiating between the two, §706, it makes clear that agency interpretations of statutes—like agency interpretations of the Constitution—are not entitled to deference.

Thus, the Supreme Court made it clear that the Constitution and the APA vest the courts, not government agencies, with the power and responsibility to interpret statutes and law.  

However, this decision does not directly affect New York state courts. The Chevron doctrine was a federal principle. It applied to federal agencies and federal courts. New York has its own version of Chevron. It is called the “Kurcsics doctrine, named after Kurcsics v. Merchants Mut. Ins. Co., 403 N.E.2d 159, 163 (N.Y. 1980) which held:

Where the interpretation of a statute or its application involves knowledge and understanding of underlying operational practices or entails an evaluation of factual data and inferences to be drawn therefrom, the courts regularly defer to the governmental agency charged with the responsibility for administration of the statute. If its interpretation is not irrational or unreasonable, it will be upheld.  Where, however, the question is one of pure statutory reading and analysis, dependent only on accurate apprehension of legislative intent, there is little basis to rely on any special competence or expertise of the administrative agency and its interpretive regulations are therefore to be accorded much less weight. And, of course, if the regulation runs counter to the clear wording of a statutory provision, it should not be accorded any weight. (Citations omitted).

Whether New York Courts will reevaluate the Kurcsics doctrine remains to be seen, but agency power on a federal level has been substantially curtailed.

Keven Danow is an attorney representing members of all three tiers of the Beverage Alcohol Industry and member of The Danow Group, 275 Madison Ave, NY, NY. 10022. (212 3703744). Website: thedanowgroup.com; email:kd@thedanowgroup.com

This article is not intended to give specific legal advice.  Before taking any action, the reader should consult with an attorney familiar with the relevant facts and circumstances.

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Keven Danow

Keven Danow

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