Utah Files Amicus Brief: Seeks Supreme Court Reversal of Improper Increase of Federal Agency Power [UPH Wire]

Utah Files Amicus Brief: Seeks Supreme Court Reversal of Improper Increase of Federal Agency Power

SALT LAKE CITY Feb. 10, 2016 – The State of Utah led out with an amicus
curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court seeking the reversal of a
case using the Auer/Seminole Rock doctrine. The brief contends that the
doctrine gives unconstitutional deference to federal agencies, violating
separation of powers principles. Utah’s brief was joined by Texas,
Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Montana,
Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Under the direction of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, the brief was
drafted and filed by Utah Federal Solicitor Parker Douglas.

“I think the number of states that have signed on to this brief speaks to
the importance of this case,” said General Reyes. “The case is the perfect
vehicle for the Supreme Court to correct the unconstitutional deference
about which several Justices have expressed concern. Those Justices have
previously stated that they were awaiting the proper case to reconsider the
doctrine. This is that case.”

“At issue in this case is the separation of powers between the federal
government and States, as well as in the consistent and non-arbitrary
application of federal regulations,” said Douglas. “Federal agencies should
not be able to write ambiguous regulations and arbitrarily enforce them.”
The cases questioned by the brief, Auer v. Robbins and Bowles v. Seminole
Rock & Sand Co., require courts to give deference to agency interpretations
of ambiguous regulations. There is a growing recognition in the legal
community that the level of deference in these cases raises grave
separation of powers and administrative law concerns. By placing the powers
to write and to interpret law in the same hands, these cases encourage
vague regulations, ever shifting administrative interpretations, and
arbitrary government.

In addition to separation of powers and administrative law concerns, the
deference to administrative rules and interpretation in the Auer/Seminole
Rock cases also subverts basic principles of federalism. Agency
interpretations of ambiguous regulations preempt contrary state laws in a
way that cannot be squared with the text or spirit of the Supremacy Clause.
In addition, this deprives States political process protections. Although
the Constitution guarantees the States a role in the composition of the
federal legislature in order to ensure that their interests are heard and
understood, the States lack any such role in the composition of federal
agencies.

Finally, by encouraging agencies to evade the notice-and-comment
requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Auer/Seminole Rock
cases deprive States of the opportunity to participate in the rulemaking
process intended by that statute.

The case is United Student Aid Funds, Inc., v. Bryana Bible, No. 15-861,
from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. A copy of Utah and its sister
states’ brief is available at 1.usa.gov/1Q6blFq
.
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Daniel Burton
Public Information Officer
Office of the Utah Attorney General
Mobile: 801-386-6830

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