The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday that, on paper, are about a group of commercial fishermen who oppose a government fee that they consider unreasonable. But the lawyers who have helped to propel their case to the nation’s highest court have a far more powerful backer: petrochemicals billionaire Charles Koch.
The case is one of the most consequential to come before the justices in years. A victory for the fishermen would do far more than push aside the monitoring fee, part of a system meant to prevent overfishing, that they objected to. It would very likely sharply limit the power of many federal agencies to regulate not only fisheries and the environment, but also health care, finance, telecommunications and other activities, legal experts say.
“It might all sound very innocuous,” said Jody Freeman, founder and director of the Harvard Law School Environmental and Energy Law Program and a former Obama White House official. “But it’s connected to a much larger agenda, which is essentially to disable and dismantle federal regulation.”