Supreme Court to Hear Case That Could Limit Power of Federal Government

On a blustery fall morning in southern New Jersey, the weather was too rough for the fishing boats at the center of a momentous Supreme Court case to set out to sea.

A herring fisherman named Bill Bright talked about the case, which will be argued on Wednesday and could both lift what he said was an onerous fishing regulation and wipe out the most important precedent on the power of executive agencies, a long-sought goal of the conservative legal movement.

As workers cleaned squid and the salt air whipped over the docks, Mr. Bright, who has been fishing for 40 years and whose family-owned company is one of the plaintiffs, said he recognized the impact the case could have.

“I can see why this case is such a political thing,” he said. “But to me, it’s not political. This is my livelihood.”

Mr. Bright is backed by a conservative group with ambitions that extend far beyond fishing regulations. Its aim is to do away with a seminal 1984 decision, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the most cited cases in American law.

The conservative legal movement and business groups have long objected to the ruling, partly based on a general hostility to government regulation and partly based on the belief, grounded in the separation of powers, that agencies should have only the power that Congress has explicitly given to them.


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