Who wins if Chevron is overturned?

March 01, 2024 | By NICOLE W.C. YEATMAN

Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo—the Supreme Court case that could overturn Chevron deference and remove judicial bias toward regulatory agencies—has been called “the plan to incapacitate the federal government.”  

Chevron shields the executive branch from overly intrusive court review,” law professor Nicholas Bagley writes in The Atlantic, “giving it the flexibility to do its work.” Nobody really knows what the world without Chevron would look like, Bagley claims. “I came to think that Chevron’s opponents may not much care,” he adds.  

But Bagley is wrong: Chevron’s opponents do care. Overturning Chevron isn’t about incapacitating the government; it’s about restoring the constitutional separation of powers. It would give Americans—like the fishermen in the Loper Bright Enterprises case—a fair shot in court when agencies wield their power improperly.  

Who wins if Chevron is overturned? Real people like Robert Mayfield, Arlen Foster, Cameron Edwards, and Shannon Poe—Pacific Legal Foundation clients battling unjust agency actions. 

Robert Mayfield 

Robert Mayfield’s family business, R.U.M. Enterprises, runs 13 Dairy Queen restaurants and a Wally’s Burger Express in Texas. The business employs more than 350 people. Hourly employees start at $15 per hour—above state and federal minimum wage—while those who advance to management positions are moved to a salary package with opportunities for bonuses.  

The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes a default rule that employees should be paid hourly. But it carves out several exemptions, including for “executive, administrative, or professional” employees, who may be paid a set salary instead of an hourly wage. In interpreting this law, the Department of Labor sets a minimum salary someone must make to qualify as an executive, administrative, or professional employee. 

Never mind that the law says nothing about minimum salary, or that businesses like R.U.M. have spent decades figuring out how to compensate and incentivize good restaurant managers. Because of the Department of Labor’s interpretation of the law, Robert is forced to pay higher base salaries when he’d rather incentivize his managers with bonuses tied to company profits.  

With recent news that the Department of Labor wants to hike the minimum salary for exempt employees to $70,000—forcing Robert to convert some managers to hourly workers ineligible for bonuses—Robert is now suing the Department of Labor in federal court, arguing the agency has no right to set a minimum salary requirement for salaried employees. 

Overturning Chevron would prevent courts from automatically deferring to the Department of Labor’s interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, giving Robert’s lawsuit a fair hearing. 

Arlen Foster 

Arlen Foster is a third-generation farmer in South Dakota. His father planted a tree belt on the south side of the family farm in 1936. Each winter the tree belt collects snow that melts in the spring, accumulating in a low spot in the middle of the farm. The Natural Resources Conservation Service calls this puddle a wetland protected by federal law. The wetland certification limits how much the Fosters can farm their land. 

The Swampbuster Act allows landowners like Arlen to ask the government to review mistaken wetland certifications. But when Arlen asked for a review, the Natural Resources Conservative Service refused, saying Arlen had to provide new evidence about his puddle before the agency would reconsider.  

When Arlen sued, the district court and Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals deferred to the agency’s interpretation of the Swampbuster Act. 

PLF has asked the Supreme Court to grant, vacate, and remand Arlen’s case if the Court overturns Chevron. The end of Chevron could finally free the Fosters to farm their own land.  

Cameron Edwards 

Cameron Edwards has a farm in Kansas. His family maintains 3,000 acres of grassland for cattle grazing. The land is also home to the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. 

Environmental stewardship is important to the Edwards family. Maintaining healthy grassland is good for both their cattle and the lesser prairie-chicken. 

But the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an Endangered Species Act rule that prohibits activities affecting the habitat of the lesser prairie-chicken—restricting how the Edwards family stewards their land.  

The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to balance conservation efforts with the economic impact of regulations. But the Fish and Wildlife Service has its own interpretation of the law: It believes it can impose regulations on landowners without being limited by economic impacts.  

Cameron Edwards is suing. Overturning Chevron would make courts consider his case fairly on the merits, instead of deferring to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. 

Shannon Poe 

Shannon Poe is a mining enthusiast in Idaho. He uses a section dredge to mine metals and minerals from streambeds—a practice that is usually encouraged because it removes pollutants from water.  

But environmental groups have accused Shannon and other miners of violating the Clean Water Act. After one group filed a citizen suit against Shannon, a federal district court pointed to a 1990 case in which the Ninth Circuit broadly differed to the EPA’s dubious interpretation of the Clean Water Act and found Shannon liable. He was ordered to pay $150,000 in civil penalties and effectively banned from mining in Idaho without a federal permit.  

Shannon sued, asking the Ninth Circuit to limit broad deference to agencies like the EPA. Overturning Chevron would mean a likely victory for Shannon, restoring his livelihood. 

Learn more about why Chevron deference is unconstitutional.