NJ Fishermen Ask Supreme Court to End Unlawful, Job-Killing Mandate


Contact:  James Davis, james@touchdownstrategies.com, (703) 635-5600

Contact:  James Valvo, media@causeofaction.org

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Paul Clement unites with Cause of Action Institute to petition Court to overrule Chevron deference

Bureaucrats bypass Congress to force herring fishermen to pay for at-sea monitors

WASHINGTON, DC, November 10, 2022—Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement today petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of several New Jersey fishermen challenging an onerous and unlawful federal mandate. Central to the case is Chevron deference and the ability of federal courts to overrule executive branch actions that have no basis in law.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regulations force herring fishermen to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to host at-sea monitors who observe the fishermen on fishing trips and report their activities to the federal government. The mandate forces herring fishermen to pay monitors as much as $700 per day, which can be more than some boat captains and crew members make on the same trips.

“We are fighting for our livelihoods and a future that is being unfairly targeted by federal overreach,” said Stefan Axelsson, a third-generation fisherman and captain of one of the vessels in the lawsuit. “These rules could force hardworking fishermen to surrender a significant part of their earnings.”

Watch a video profile of the case.

Federal law authorizes the placement of at-sea monitors, but not passing the cost of monitors onto herring fishermen. When NOAA realized it would be unable to afford its desired herring monitoring program, the agency shifted the costs to fishermen instead of seeking additional funds from Congress.

Read the petition.

Interestingly, Congress has already spoken to the issue of industry funding.  It gave NOAA explicit authority to require fishermen in certain fisheries to pay for at-sea monitors. But Congress considered and rejected granting that authority over the herring fishery at issue in this case.

“It is the duty of the judiciary to step in when any branch of government has abused its power,” said Paul Clement. “This case is about correcting one such abuse and reining in executive overreach that threatens the livelihoods of fishing families and the constitutional balance of power.”

Overturning Chevron Deference

The case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, has the potential to set a landmark precedent by overruling Chevron deference, a decades-old legal doctrine that has allowed Congress to outsource lawmaking to executive agency employees. That standard has all but guaranteed government victories in regulatory cases by giving unelected bureaucrats carte blanche for rulemaking without congressional approval.

There are indications the federal judiciary is prepared to revisit Chevron. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the at-sea monitor requirement based on Chevron in a 2-1 ruling. In a strong dissent, Judge Justin Walker derided NOAA’s attempt to circumvent Congress:

Congress can make profitable fishing even harder by forcing fishermen to spend a fifth of their revenue on the wages of federal monitors embedded by regulation onto their ships. But until Congress does that, the Fisheries Service cannot.

“Congress did not give NOAA the power to outsource the costs of at-sea monitors,” said Cause of Action Institute Counsel Ryan Mulvey. “It is time for the Supreme Court to do away with Chevron and return lawmaking to its rightful place in Congress and statutory interpretation to its rightful place: the judiciary, not the executive branch.”

The fishermen received legal assistance from Cause of Action Institute, a non-profit devoted to individual liberty.

The petition is available on Cause of Action Institute’s website. Background information, including the petition, motion, and lower court rulings, can be found here.

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About Cause of Action Institute: Cause of Action Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to enhance individual and economic liberty by limiting the power of the administrative state to make decisions that are contrary to freedom and prosperity by advocating for a transparent and accountable government free from abuse.

About Clement & Murphy: Paul Clement served as United States solicitor general from 2004 to 2008. Over the past three Supreme Court terms, attorneys with Clement & Murphy have argued 14 cases and prevailed in 12. Its team has successfully litigated both alongside and against the United States government, as well as federal agencies, and we have successfully secured certiorari over the federal government’s opposition and successfully opposed certiorari when the federal government has sought it.

Court Filings: Loper Bright Enterprises, Inc v. Gina Raimondo

Read important filings and follow updates in the case:

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Herring fishermen appeal district court decision upholding industry-killing at-sea monitoring regulations

Washington D.C. – Cause of Action Institute today filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on behalf of several family-owned fishing companies based in New Jersey, who hope to block a new regulation that would force them to pay for third-party “at-sea monitors.”  That regulation—which was designed by the New England Fishery Management Council and promulgated by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration—requires certain boats in the Atlantic herring fishery to carry “at-sea monitors” and at industry’s cost, all without congressional authorization.

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Family Fishermen Move to Block Industry-Killing At-Sea Monitoring Rule

Herring Fishermen are Fighting Burdensome Regulation, COVID-19, and New, Unlawful Monitoring Requirements to Stay Afloat

Arlington, VA (June 8, 2020) – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a motion for summary judgement on behalf of a group of New Jersey fishermen, asking a D.C. Federal Court to vacate job-killing fisheries regulations called the “Omnibus Amendment.” CoA Institute filed suit in February to challenge the industry-killing rule, which requires certain boats in the Atlantic herring fishery to carry “at-sea monitors” at their own cost.

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Family Fishermen Challenge Illegal, Industry-Killing At-Sea Monitoring Rule from Department of Commerce

Arlington, VA (Feb. 19, 2020) – Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of New Jersey family fishermen to block a new regulation that would force them to pay for third-party “at-sea monitors.”  The industry-killing rule—which was designed by the New England Fishery Management Council and promulgated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce—will require certain boats in the Atlantic herring fishery to carry “at-sea monitors” and at their own cost. Learn More

CoA Institute Highlights Deficiencies in Proposed Rule to Shift Burdensome Costs of At-Sea Monitoring to Commercial Fishermen

The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), in coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), seeks to approve and implement a controversial set of regulatory amendments that would create a new industry-funding requirement for at-sea monitoring in the Atlantic herring fishery and, moreover, create a standardized process for introducing similar requirements in other New England fisheries.  Under the so-called Omnibus Amendment, the fishing industry would be forced to bear the burdensome cost of allowing third-party monitors to ride their boats in line with the NEFMC’s supplemental monitoring goals.  This would unfairly and unlawfully restrict economic opportunity in the fishing industry.

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