SCOTUS Upends Government’s Ability to Govern

June 28, 2024

The court issued major rulings this week limiting the enforcement power of federal agencies.

The Roosevelt Rundown features our top stories of the week.

The Supreme Court’s Latest Blows to the Administrative State

Today, the Supreme Court released a major ruling that undermines the government’s ability to enforce important regulations—and ultimately, to govern.

In response to Loper v. Raimondo and Relentless v. Department of Commerce, SCOTUS overturned the long-standing Chevron precedent that courts must defer to agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Historically, policy experts, not judges and lawyers, have been entrusted to make nuanced decisions on how to enforce rules and regulations.

“The decision entrenches the power of the courts while weakening the functionality of administrative agencies,” says Shahrzad Shams, senior manager of Roosevelt’s Race and Democracy program. “This further opens the door to regulatory capture and corporate disregard for the health, safety, and well-being of people and the planet.”

Two additional decisions this week also stifled regulators’ ability to regulate: Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) v. Jarkesy and Ohio v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The SEC decision—by finding that the SEC’s process for adjudicating fraud claims violates the Seventh Amendment—upends decades of precedent and practice, and by doing so, could also strip several other federal agencies of their power to seek penalties in administrative proceedings. In Ohio, the court blocked the EPA’s rule requiring states to adequately plan to reduce ozone pollution that impacts other states, a loss for public health and environmental justice.

Through judicial overreach into policy questions—as we also saw in the Supreme Court’s choice to hear Moore v. US—SCOTUS is pursuing an “explicitly political project” that seeks to “construct a (de)regulatory landscape that entrenches permanent, elitist minority rule,” says Shams. 


Building an Innovative Economy

How do we sustain innovation in the economy? Traditional wisdom says incentivizing firms to innovate is all it takes. But just as important—and often overlooked in competition policy—is fostering the ability of firms to innovate. In a new Roosevelt brief, Harvard Kennedy School Fellow Ketan Ahuja creates a framework for a capabilities-oriented approach to antitrust innovation, especially as it applies to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

“Innovation is about incentives, but it is also about creating supportive ecosystems,” Ahuja writes. A number of factors can help build these ecosystems and boost firms’ ability to innovate: open access to different technologies and products, knowledge sharing among communities, and the free movement of employees—such as by banning noncompetes

Read more about the “Innovation-as-Capabilities” framework in the full brief: “Promoting Innovation Ecosystems in Antitrust: A Framework for Antitrust Analysis Applied to Emerging AI Technologies.”


What We’re Talking About

What We’re Reading

When Are We Going to Protect Renters from Extreme Heat? – by Roosevelt Fellow Kate Aronoff – The New Republic

How Doctors Came to Play a Key Role in the Abortion Debate – coauthored by Roosevelt Fellow Daniel HoSang – TIME

California Budget Includes $12 Million for Reparations for Black ResidentsWashington Post

Who Benefits and Who Pays: How Corporate Tax Breaks Drive Inequality – Liberation in a Generation and Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy


Note: The Roosevelt Rundown will be on hiatus until July 12.