United States v. Haggar Apparel Co., 526 U.S. 380, 14 (1999)

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

Opinion of the Court

changing circumstances in a manner consistent with Congress' general intent. 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 operations were abroad) but also by determining some specifics of the policy (finding that painting, for example, is incidental to assembly). For purposes of the Chevron analysis, the statute is ambiguous nonetheless, ambiguous in that the agency must use its discretion to determine how best to implement the policy in those cases not covered by the statute's specific terms. Those specifics are instructive to the agency as to the general congressional purpose, and the agency's rules as to instances not covered by the statute should be parallel, to the extent possible, with the specific cases Congress did address.

Finally, respondent and a supporting amicus contend Chevron deference is inconsistent with the historical practice in customs cases. Brief for Respondent 1-6; Brief for Customs and International Trade Bar Association as Amicus Curiae 6-11. This history, suffice it to say, is not so uniform and clear as to convince us that judicial deference would thwart congressional intent. As early as 1809, Chief Justice Marshall noted in a customs case that "[i]f the question had been doubtful, the court would have respected the uniform construction which it is understood has been given by the treasury department of the United States upon similar questions." United States v. Vowell, 5 Cranch 368, 372. See also P. Reed, The Role of Federal Courts in U. S. Customs & International Trade Law 289 (1997) ("Consistent with the Chevron methodology, and as has long been the rule in customs cases, customs regulations are sustained if they represent reasonable interpretations of the statute"); cf. Zenith Radio Corp. v. United States, 437 U. S. 443, 450 (1978) (defer-ring to the Treasury Department's "longstanding and consistent administrative interpretation" of the countervailing duty provision of the Tariff Act).


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