Columbia Law Review








This Article offers a comprehensive examination of the Skidmore standard for judicial review of agency legal interpretations as applied by the courts in the period since the Supreme Court revitalized Skidmore in United States v. Mead Corp. First, the Article documents an empirical study of five years worth of Skidmore applications in the federal courts of appeals. In the study, we evaluate two competing conceptions of Skidmore review - the independent judgment model and the theoretically more deferential sliding-scale model - and conclude that the appellate courts overwhelmingly follow the sliding scale approach. Also, contrary to two other, significantly more limited studies, we document that Skidmore review is highly deferential to agency interpretations of law, with agency interpretations prevailing in more than 60% of Skidmore applications. Drawing from the Skidmore applications studied, we then analyze more qualitatively how the appellate courts apply the Skidmore review standard as a sliding scale and identify where those courts are struggling to make sense of Skidmore's dictates within that model. To resolve the lower courts' difficulties, we propose re-conceptualizing Skidmore's sliding scale as balancing comparative agency expertise against the potential for agency arbitrariness. Finally, we note several burgeoning issues concerning the scope of Skidmore's applicability and offer preliminary thoughts for addressing those questions.


Included in

Law Commons