Supreme Court lets a truck stop sue the Federal Reserve in latest threat to agency regulations


WASHINGTON D.C. -- The Supreme Court on Monday revived a lawsuit by a North Dakota truck stop that is challenging the fees banks can charge for debit-card transactions in a ruling that could have deeper implications for other government regulations.

The decision was the latest from the Supreme Court this term that would make it easier for industries to challenge what conservative critics describe as the “administrative state.”

“Today’s ruling is especially significant in light of Friday’s decision overruling Chevron, because it means that even old agency rules can be challenged anew so long as they produce any contemporary harm,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

“In other words, even understandings of agency authority that are a half-century old can now be challenged on the ground that some recent agency action, however minor, has injured a plaintiff, ” Vladeck added. “Given how much Friday’s ruling in Loper Bright destabilizes administrative law, today’s ruling applies that destabilization retroactively.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the opinion for a 6-3 majority, with the liberal justices in dissent. She rejected the Justice Department’s argument that the statute of limitations runs from when a regulation is finalized.

“Under the Board’s finality rule, only those fortunate enough to suffer an injury within six years of a rule’s promulgation may bring an (Administrative Procedure Act) suit. Everyone else – no matter how serious the injury or how illegal the rule – has no recourse,” Barrett wrote.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson blasted the decision in her dissent.

“The flawed reasoning and far-reaching results of the Court’s ruling in this case are staggering,” Jackson wrote.

“The majority refuses to accept the straightforward, commonsense, and singularly plausible reading of the limitations statute that Congress wrote. In doing so, the Court wreaks havoc on Government agencies, businesses, and society at large,” she added. “At the end of a momentous Term, this much is clear: The tsunami of lawsuits against agencies that the Court’s holdings in this case and Loper Bright have authorized has the potential to devastate the functioning of the Federal Government.”

The truck stop, Corner Post, is fighting a 2011 Federal Reserve rule that capped “interchange fees” at 21 cents per transaction plus a small percentage of that transaction’s value. Retail stores have long chafed at those fees.

The issue before the Supreme Court was more technical: The government argued the truck stock couldn’t sue over the rule because a six-year statute of limitations had already run out.

But Corner Post did not incorporate until 2017 and it argued the statute-of-limitations clock didn’t start ticking until it opened its doors. It claimed that any other outcome would mean a company would be barred from suing over a government regulation before it even began operations.

The federal government said Corner Post’s position would allow opponents of a regulation to challenge it forever by simply finding a new company willing to sue. A federal district court and the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the federal government.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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