United States v. Haggar Apparel Co., 526 U.S. 380, 2 (1999)

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Cite as: 526 U. S. 380 (1999)


1500(b). Respondent argues in vain that 1502(a), which directs the Secretary to make classification rules for "the various ports of entry," authorizes regulations that have no bearing on the importer's rights, but simply ensure that customs officers around the country classify goods according to a similar and consistent scheme. Like other regulations which help to define the legal relations between the Government and regulated entities, customs regulations were authorized by Congress at least in part to clarify the rights and obligations of importers. This conclusion is not altered by the circumstance that the United States Trade Representative and the International Trade Commission have certain responsibilities for recommending and proclaiming changes in the HTSUS. These powers pertain to changing or amending the tariff schedules themselves; the Treasury Department and the Customs Service are charged with administering the adopted schedules applicable on the date of importation. Language respondent cites in 19 CFR 10.11(a) does not suffice to displace the usual Chevron deference. Particularly in light of the fact that the agency utilized the notice-and-comment rulemaking process before issuing the regulations, the argument that they were not intended to be entitled to judicial deference implies a sufficient departure from conventional contemporary administrative practice that this Court ought not to adopt it absent a different statutory structure and more express language to this effect in the regulations themselves. Pp. 385-390.

(b) The Court also rejects respondent's argument that even if the Treasury Department did intend the regulation to bear on the determination of refund suits, 28 U. S. C. 2643, 2640(a), and 2638 empower the Court of International Trade to interpret the tariff statute without giving Chevron deference to regulations issued by the administering agency. A central theme in respondent's argument is that such deference is not owed because the trial court proceedings may be, as they were below, de novo. The conclusion does not follow from the premise. De novo proceedings presume a foundation of law. The question here is whether the regulations are part of that controlling law. Deference can be given to the regulations without impairing the court's authority to make factual determinations, and to apply those determinations to the law, de novo. Under Chevron, if the agency's statutory interpretation clarifies an ambiguity in a way that is reasonable in light of the legislature's revealed design, the Court gives that judgment controlling weight. NationsBank of N. C., N. A. v. Variable Annuity Life Ins. Co., 513 U. S. 251, 257. Although the statute under which respondent claims an exemption gives direction not only by stating a general policy (to grant the partial exemption where only assembly and incidental opera-


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