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Eighteen AGs file brief with SCOTUS in support of fishermen

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Steve Bittenbender

(The Center Square) – Attorneys general from 18 states have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of New Jersey fishermen challenging a federal regulation requiring them to pay for the cost of monitors who board their vessels during fishing trips.

Led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the attorneys general are urging the nation’s top court to take on the case and give guidance on the “Chevron deference,” a longstanding doctrine that grants federal regulatory agencies powers to issue mandates when Congress has not given clear guidance.

Specifically, they’re urging the Supreme Court to either restrict the doctrine “in a way that is consistent with the separation of powers and the principles of federalism” or strike it down. They added a myriad of rulings has created uncertainty over it.

“The confused status quo has real costs for the people who live and work within our borders,” the brief states. “Because the problems with Chevron keep multiplying, no one really knows whether it is still viable or how courts should apply its teachings.”

The attorneys general filed their brief with the justices Thursday in the case of Loper Bright Enterprises Inc. v. Raimondo. The plaintiffs are challenging a policy set by the New England Fishery Management Council and approved by NOAA Fisheries to not only require at-sea monitors to be stationed on their boats, but also pay $700 per day for the monitors.

The monitors ensure fishermen comply with federal regulations regarding their harvest. In addition, they also collect scientific and economic data that federal agencies use to manage fisheries.

However, the fishermen, represented by the Cause of Action Institute, claim the practice is a federal overreach threatening to put them out of business.

Judges at the federal district and appellate levels have ruled in favor of the U.S. government in the case. The fishermen appealed to the Supreme Court last month.

Since then, 14 briefs in support of their claims have been filed by nearly 40 groups.

“This tremendous support highlights the broad agreement that the Supreme Court needs to revisit Chevron and ensure federal agencies do not usurp the constitutional authorities reserved for Congress and the courts,” James Valvo, executive director of Cause of Action Institute, said in a statement.

Besides West Virginia, attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia signed the brief.

The federal government has until January 17 to respond to the New Jersey fishermen’s filing.