Nebby wrote: ↑
Wed Jun 26, 2019 10:23 am
9-0 decision (with Justices joining some parts and not others)
Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito:
It should have been easy for the Court to say goodbye to Auer v. Robbins.1 In disputes involving the relationship between the government and the people, Auer requires judges to accept an executive agency’s interpretation of its own regulations even when that interpretation doesn’t represent the best and fairest reading. This rule creates a “systematic judicial bias in favor of the federal government, the most powerful of parties, and against everyone else.” Nor is Auer’s biased rule the product of some congressional mandate we are powerless to correct: This Court invented it, almost by accident and without any meaningful effort to reconcile it with the Administrative Procedure Act or the Constitution. A legion of academics, lower court judges, and Members of this Court—even Auer’s author—has called on us to abandon Auer. Yet today a bare majority flinches, and Auer lives on.
Still, today’s decision is more a stay of execution than a pardon. The Court cannot muster even five votes to say that Auer is lawful or wise. Instead, a majority retains Auer only because of stare decisis. And yet, far from standing by that precedent, the majority proceeds to impose so many new and nebulous qualifications and limitations on Auer that THE CHIEF JUSTICE claims to see little practical difference between keeping it on life support in this way and overruling it entirely. So the doctrine emerges maimed and enfeebled—in truth, zombified.
Respectfully, we owe our colleagues on the lower courts more candid and useful guidance than this. And judges owe the people who come before them nothing less than a fair contest, where every party has an equal chance to persuade the court of its interpretation of the law’s demands. One can hope that THE CHIEF JUSTICE is right, and that whether we formally overrule Auer or merely neuter it, the results in most cases will prove the same. But means, not just ends, matter, and retaining even this debilitated version of Auer threatens to force litigants and lower courts to jump through needless and perplexing new hoops and in the process deny the people the independent judicial decisions they deserve. All to what end? So that we may pretend to abide stare decisis?
Consider this case. Mr. Kisor is a Marine who lost out on benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder when the court of appeals deferred to a regulatory interpretation advanced by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The court of appeals was guilty of nothing more than faithfully following Auer. But the majority today invokes stare decisis, of all things, to vacate that judgment and tell the court of appeals to try again using its newly retooled, multi-factored, and far less determinate version of Auer. Respectfully, I would stop this business of making up
excuses for judges to abdicate their job of interpreting the law, and simply allow the court of appeals to afford Mr. Kisor its best independent judgment of the law’s meaning.
The Court’s failure to be done with Auer, and its decision to adorn Auer with so many new and ambiguous limitations, all but guarantees we will have to pass this way again. When that day comes, I hope this Court will find the nerve it lacks today and inter Auer at last. Until then, I hope that our judicial colleagues on other courts will take courage from today’s ruling and realize that it has transformed Auer into a paper tiger.