Supreme Court Asked to Reconsider Chevron Doctrine of Broad Discretion to Federal Agency Interpretation of the Law

The Law Offices of Carson J. Tucker has asked the United States Supreme Court to reconsider giving overbearing government agencies broad discretion to interpret otherwise unambiguous law.

I previously posted our United States Supreme Court petition in  DCV Imports, LLC v. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).

We swing for the fence and go directly after Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), to ask the Court to restore the core power of the judicial branch to interpret and say what the law is.

If an unambiguous provision in a statute can be interpreted and applied by the court then that should be the end of the matter. Federal agencies have little more than executive prerogative to act unchecked by the representative branch of government and beyond the careful and considered oversight of the judiciary. This is a recipe for overburdening regulatory abuses. As it stands today, federal agencies exercise all three powers explicitly, and purposefully, separated by the Constitution. Agencies exercise legislative power in passing rules and regulations providing their interpretations of the law; executive powers in determining how the law should be administered; and judicial powers in holding “administrative” hearings and rendering “final” decisions that are given great deference by federal courts. Indeed, in this posture, and especially as applied in this case, the federal agency is jury, judge and executioner.

We do not feel the ATF fairly interpreted “wilfully violated” in our case because it used our client’s prior knowledge and his prior history with another company (S&N Fireworks, his parents’ company), and the fact of his bare knowledge of the existence of the regulations to determine that a first time violation at his facility of the inventory / recordkeeping requirements was sufficient to charge him with wilfully violating 18 USC 843 (the pendant of 18 USC 923 in the Gun Control Act, similarly interpreted and administered by ATF).

There were no prior violations, and no long history of assisting with coming into compliance. Importantly, the ultimate factual findings of the agency dispelled the claims that DCV and the prior company, S&N were one and the same, and also ultimately found only the one instance of inventory mistakes on the daily summary of magazine transactions. DCV had no knowledge that the records were being improperly maintained until they were inspected for the first time.

Yet, DCV did not get a second chance, and the regulations allow the director to refuse a second chance if there is a determination of “willfulness”. Obviously, if ATF can conclude that a first time violation is “willful” then it means little to have a regulation that allows a second chance. This is where the ATF’s broad (indeed unbridled) discretion is most abusive.

It will be interesting to see what we can accomplish with this petition. For any regulated business that understands the frustrations and demands of dealing with federal agencies day in and day out, the outcome of this case could be significant.

About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
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