A Case for Varying Interpretive Deference at the State Level
10 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2011
Date Written: November 10, 2009
The rules governing a court’s interpretation of a statute should depend heavily on where that court is situated within the judicial institutional framework. The varying degrees of interpretive deference that should be shown to federal agencies by federal courts and state agencies by state courts is demonstrative of this proposition. In Chevron, the Supreme Court mandated that a federal agency’s interpretation of a statute be shown judicial deference when Congress had not spoken directly on the issue and the agency interpretation was based on a reasonable construction of the statute. Among the many factors the Court cited in justifying this allocation of interpretive power were the comparative political accountability of executive branch entities, the formal distinction between the role of the courts and agencies in the legislative process, and the technical expertise of agencies as compared to courts. These justifications, however, are much less convincing in defining the optimal relationship between state courts and state agencies with respect to interpretive deference. As such, while in many cases some level of deference may be appropriate, state agencies should not be shown Chevron-like deference by state courts when interpreting state statutes.
Keywords: statutory interpretation, state statute
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