Chevron Step Two's Domain

34 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2017 Last revised: 16 Jun 2018

See all articles by Kent H. Barnett

Kent H. Barnett

University of Georgia School of Law

Christopher J. Walker

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: December 4, 2017


An increasing number of judges, policymakers, and scholars have advocated eliminating or narrowing Chevron deference—a two-step inquiry under which courts defer to federal agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes the agencies administer. Much of the debate centers on either Chevron’s domain (i.e., when Chevron should apply at all) or how courts ascertain statutory ambiguity at Chevron’s first step. Largely lost in this debate on constraining agency discretion is the role of Chevron’s second step: whether the agency’s resolution of a statutory ambiguity is reasonable. Drawing on the most comprehensive study of Chevron in the circuit courts, this Essay explores how circuit courts have applied Chevron step two to invalidate agency statutory interpretations. In doing so, it identifies three separate approaches that merit further theoretical and doctrinal development: (1) a more-searching textualist or structuralist inquiry into the statutory ambiguity in light of the whole statute; (2) an enhanced purposivist or contextualist inquiry; and (3) an inquiry into an agency’s reasoned-decisionmaking similar to arbitrary-and-capricious review under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Keywords: administrative law, deference, judicial review, Chevron

Suggested Citation

Barnett, Kent Harris and Walker, Christopher J., Chevron Step Two's Domain (December 4, 2017). Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 93, pp. 1441-1473, 2018, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 430, Available at SSRN:

Kent Harris Barnett

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States

Christopher J. Walker (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States
614-247-1898 (Phone)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics