In last year's term, the United States Supreme Court considered the question of the scope of Chevron deference in City of Arlington v. FCC. This article discusses how the decision is an example of the work of an activist Court. The case should have been resolved by a straightforward determination under the analysis of United States v. Mead that Chevron deference simply did not apply to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) legal determination. The Court ignored this restrained approach to the case and instead addressed the question the Justices desired to decide: the reach of Chevron deference. The article discusses and criticizes the approach of Justice Scalia writing for the majority and of Chief Justice Roberts writing for three dissenting Justices.

Practitioners and scholars of administrative law can only be confused by the Court's willingness to apply Chevron in City of Arlington, given the informal administrative action being reviewed and the fact that neither reviewing court actually applied each of the two parts of the Mead test. The Court's flawed administrative law analysis results from the activist concerns of Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Scalia uses the case as a vehicle to undermine Mead, a decision that Justice Scalia loathes. Chief Justice Roberts uses the case as a vehicle to advocate for less judicial deference and less law defining power for increasingly powerful agencies. Neither member of the Court allowed the applicable rules of contemporary administrative law to hinder his efforts to achieve his broader goals. Administrative law would have been better served if a properly restrained Court had considered and applied the previously determined rules for judicial review of administrative agencies.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2015


Notes/Citation Information

University of Pittsburgh Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 3 (Spring 2015), pp. 391-426.

Bluebook Citation:

Michael P. Healy, Means and Ends in City of Arlington v. FCC: Ignoring the Lawyer's Craft to Reshape the Scope of Chevron Deference, 76 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 391 (2015).


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