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Ken Tableman Law Blog

Interpretation of Criminal Statutes -- Who decides?

Should the courts defer to an executive agency's interpretation of a law that can lead to civil and administrtive enfocement?

There is a long-standing rule that Courts will defer to agency interpretations of laws that they are charged with administering, at least for civil purposes.  This doctrine is known as Chevron deference after a Supreme Court case, Chevron U.S.A v. National Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). This doctrine has spilled over to the criminal law, with some courts deferring to agency interpretations of laws with criminal applications. This conflicts with another rule, the rule of lenity, which holds that only Congress can define crimes. In a recent statement two Justices of he Supreme Court said they think the Court in a proper case presenting the question the Court should resolve this conflict. Whitman v. United States, 574 U.S. ___(No. 14-29, November 10, 2014).


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