Chevron and Federal Criminal Law

28 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2018 Last revised: 15 Feb 2018

Date Written: December 31, 2017


The decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), launched a new approach to statutory interpretation in the post-New Deal administrative state based on the dubious presumption that, where it leaves ambiguity in a statute, Congress intended to delegate law-interpreting power to the federal agency charged with administering that act. That rule has come under attack on a variety of fronts, not the least of which is that it jettisons one of the oldest propositions in American legal history — that it is the duty of the courts to construe a law. Whatever the outcome of the challenges to the Chevron deference rule, it makes no sense to apply that rule to the Justice Department’s interpretation of a criminal law or to an agency’s non-scientific, non-technical, policy-laden judgment regarding what conduct should be made a crime.

Keywords: Chevron Deference, Chevron and Federal Criminal Law

Suggested Citation

Larkin, Jr., Paul James, Chevron and Federal Criminal Law (December 31, 2017). 32 J. L. & Pol. 211 (2017). Available at SSRN:

Paul James Larkin, Jr. (Contact Author)

The Heritage Foundation ( email )

214 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002-4999
United States
202-608-6190 (Phone)

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