Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently caused shock waves when he issued a dissent, essentially overturning a decision he made some 15 years ago.
Thomas said that he had ultimately changed his views on the power of federal administrative agencies since he authored the decision in a 2005 case known as Brand X.
That case reinforced a legal doctrine that has been met with harsh criticism from conservatives.
During the Brand X case, Thomas took the side of the Federal Communications Commission on a telecommunications law provision and not that of a federal appeals court.
In the current court term, justices decided NOT to take a case that would have brought Thomas’s 2005 decision in Brand X back for a revisit but Thomas dissented and said he would have welcomed the chance to go back to it.
Thomas said, quoting a line from a 1950 case, “Although I authored Brand X, ‘it is never too late to ‘surrende[r] former views to a better considered position.’
Brand X appears to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and traditional tools of statutory interpretation.”
“Although I authored Brand X, ‘it is never too late to ‘surrende[r] former views to a better considered position.’ Brand X appears to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and traditional tools of statutory interpretation.”-Justice Thomas
Since the court ultimately decided not to take the new case, that shows that it didn’t gain the votes from the necessary four justices.
Like Brand X, the new case, Howard Baldwin v. U.S., brought forth issues related to something called the Chevron deference, which coms from a 1984 case that says courts should defer to interpretations by federal agencies when instructions and guidance from Congress is unclear.
Through his dissent, Thomas put himself in line with many conservative critics who found fault with the 1984 Chevron v. NRDC ruling which ultimately just grew and empowered federal bureaucracy.
Thomas wrote, “Chevron compels judges to abdicate the judicial power without constitutional sanction… Chevron also gives federal agencies unconstitutional power.”