Feds Target New Jersey Fishermen, Policy Could Harm Small Businesses Nationwide
A controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1984 that grants entirely too much power to federal bureaucrats to harass and then fleece small business owners out of their hard-earned revenues might soon get overturned.
Or at least that’s what herring fishermen out of New Jersey are hoping will happen. They’ve sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Two years ago, members of that federal agency dictated that certain people who work for them —monitors — must ride along with these fishermen and observe their activities. The monitors then report back to the government.
To worsen matters, those fishermen — and not the government — must pay monitors at least $700 per day.
This is according to a video that the Arlington, VA-based Cause of Action Institute recently uploaded to YouTube.
“There will be plenty of trips where that [federal] monitor will make more than myself or my crew,” said Stefan Axelsson of New Jersey, who described himself in the video as a third-generation fisherman and small business owner.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a divided opinion, cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1984 ruling in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC). The Supreme Court in 1984 said a government agency must conform to any clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law. Courts, according to the 1984 ruling, must defer to the government agency in ambiguous situations, provided its interpretation is reasonable.
But, in a case that could overrule Chevron, the New Jersey fishermen are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court. The fishermen said the new federal rule puts their livelihoods in jeopardy and costs their businesses a significant sum of money.
The Cause of Action Institute filed the case.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who served under former President George. W. Bush, said in the Cause of Action video that federal agencies lack any authority to force fishing rigs to pay for inspectors.
“When you look at the statute, it says nothing about this fairly momentous authority to force regulated parties to essentially pay for the regulators,” Clement said.
“That is something that we think that Congress would put in there, and if Congress didn’t put it in there then it’s because Congress didn’t want it. The agency can’t just put it in there for themselves.”
The Ohio-based Buckeye Institute and the Washington, D.C.-based National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) are not parties to the case. The two organizations, however, recently filed an amicus brief.
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“If the NMFS can require fishermen to house, feed, and pay monitors for several days, what stops any other federal agency from doing so? Congress has called for the hiring of some 87,000 new IRS agents, some of whom could become armed enforcement officers,” according to the brief.
“Could the IRS call for housing some of these agents in the spare bedrooms of uber-wealthy and other taxpayers working out of their homes, with a directive to feed and pay them, to monitor tax compliance?”
Cause of Action, according to its website, advocates for economic freedom and limited government. The NFIB’s website says it advocates for small and independent business owners in all 50 states. The Buckeye Institute, as stated on its website, promotes free market public policies.
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