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Customs Service Ruling Letters Due Judicial Respect, Not Chevron Deference
Description Supreme Court held that Customs Service ruling letters on tariff classifications of imported goods are not due the judicial deference of the Chevron doctrine that applies to regulations that go through the normal review process. Letters are due judicial respect according to their care and completeness in logic.
Topic Administrative Law
Key Words Tariff Classifications; Judicial Respect
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Mead challenged the Customs Service's classification of imported calendars which made them subject to a higher tariff rate than if they were classified as Mead believed they should be. The Service rejected Mead's claim in a ruling letter, as did the Court of International Trade. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed, holding that Customs Service's classification rulings are not due the judicial deference accorded many regulations under the Chevron doctrine and that rulings by the Custom Service are due no deference at all. The court found that the calendars were not "diaries" nor "bound" as Customs had classified them. Customs appealed.
Decision Reversed. A ruling by Customs is not due the deference the courts are supposed to give to administrative rulings under the Chevron doctrine, but a Customs ruling letter is due respect according to its persuasiveness. Administrative implementation of a particular statutory provision qualifies for Chevron deference when it appears that Congress delegated authority to an agency generally to make rules carrying the force of law. Customs does not engage in the usual notice-and-comment practice. Forty-six Customs offices produce 10,000 ruling letters a year; they do not apply broadly, only to individual instances, so they are best treated as "interpretations contained in policy statements, agency manuals, and enforcement guidelines." However, the letters are still due judicial respect according to the thoroughness, logic and tie to sources on the merits demonstrated in a particular case.
Citation U.S. v. Mead Corporation, C S.Ct. C (2001 WL 672258, Sup. Ct., 2001)

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