OCTOBER TERM, 2000
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the federal circuit
No. 99-1434. Argued November 8, 2000—Decided June 18, 2001
The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States authorizes the
United States Customs Service to classify and fix the rate of duty on imports, under rules and regulations issued by the Secretary of the Treasury. As relevant here, the Secretary provides for tariff rulings before the entry of goods by regulations authorizing "ruling letters" setting tariff classifications for particular imports. Any of the 46 port-of-entry Customs offices and the Customs Headquarters Office may issue such letters. Respondent imports "day planners," three-ring binders with pages for daily schedules, phone numbers and addresses, a calendar, and suchlike. After classifying the planners as duty free for several years, Customs Headquarters issued a ruling letter classifying them as bound diaries subject to tariff. Mead filed suit in the Court of International Trade, which granted the Government summary judgment. In reversing, the Federal Circuit found that ruling letters should not be treated like Customs regulations, which receive the highest level of deference under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, because they are not preceded by notice and comment as under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), do not carry the force of law, and are not intended to clarify importers's rights and obligations beyond the specific case. The court gave no deference at all to the ruling letter at issue.
Held: Administrative implementation of a particular statutory provision qualifies for Chevron deference when it appears that Congress delegated authority to the agency generally to make rules carrying the force of law, and that the agency interpretation claiming deference was promulgated in the exercise of such authority. Such delegation may be shown in a variety of ways, as by an agency's power to engage in adjudication or notice-and-comment rulemaking, or by some other indication of comparable congressional intent. A Customs ruling letter has no claim to Chevron deference, but, under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U. S. 134, it is eligible to claim respect according to its persuasiveness. Pp. 227-239.
(a) When Congress has explicitly left a gap for an agency to fill, there has been an express delegation of authority to the agency to elucidate aPage: Index Previous 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
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