Georgia lawmakers vote to limit judicial deference

The Georgia House of Representatives voted 158-8 on Tuesday to approve legislation that would end the practice of judicial deference to tax regulations in the state. House Bill 538—sponsored by state Representatives Todd Jones (R), Mitchell Scoggins (R), and Brett Harrell (R)—would require the Georgia Tax Tribunal to decide all questions of law without deference to the regulations or policy interpretations of the state’s Department of Revenue.

Judicial deference is a principle of administrative law that instructs federal courts to defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes or regulations. State-level approaches to judicial deference vary significantly, and state courts are not obliged to defer to state-level administrative agencies or adopt federal deference doctrines. Thirty-six states, however, have implemented forms of judicial deference to state administrative agencies similar to the federal deference doctrines.

If the legislation becomes law, Georgia would join a group of other states that have addressed judicial deference practices in recent years. Since 2008, Wisconsin, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, and Michigan have taken executive, judicial, or legislative action to prohibit judicial deference to state agencies.

Ballotpedia tracks state responses to judicial deference as part of The Administrative State Project.

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Additional reading:
Deference (administrative state)
Todd Jones
Mitchell Scoggins
Brett Harrell