A petition for certiorari pending before the U.S. Supreme Court has the potential to narrow the application of Chevron deference to agency rulemaking. Under Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, a 1984 Supreme Court case that is widely considered a foundational case in administrative law, courts interpreting an ambiguous provision of a federal statute defer to an agency’s interpretation of that statute. During Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation proceedings, commentators noted his expressed skepticism of deference to agencies and speculated that his confirmation might lead to the trimming of Chevron deference and thus the scope of agencies’ authority to interpret the laws they enforce and implement.
The now-pending case of Perez-Guzman v. Sessions, No. 17-302, involves a complex statutory and regulatory scheme under immigration law pertaining to the circumstances in which an alien whose prior removal order has been reinstated may apply for asylum. Perez-Guzman, the party seeking the Supreme Court’s review, casts the case as presenting the question of whether a court must defer to an agency’s interpretation when the agency is interpreting two statutory provisions that conflict with each other. He argues that when ambiguity arises in that circumstance, rather than from a “gap” in a statute that Chevron presumes Congress intended for the agency to fill, it is for a court to resolve the conflict between the laws at issue.
Perez-Guzman also points to a concurrence in an earlier case by two current members of the Court signaling that they would not apply Chevron deference in this circumstance, thus suggesting that multiple members of the Court may be inclined to hear the case. After Perez-Guzman filed his petition in August, the government waived its right to respond to the petition. Thereafter, the Court requested the government to respond, often an indication that at least one Justice has interest in the case. In its response, the Solicitor General states that review is unwarranted because the Chevron issue need not be decided and that an earlier case effectively resolved this issue against Perez-Guzman.
Perez-Guzman has attracted significant amicus support from immigration attorneys and the Cato Institute alike. The Court will likely decide whether to take up the case in January or February.