Zuni Public School District v. Dept of Education:
The Supreme Court handed down an interesting decision today in Zuni Public School District No. 89 v. Dept of Education, an administrative law case involving a federal program to assist local school funding in particular localities. The Department of Education had come up with a formula for calculating when states had "equalized expenditures" under state programs, letting states contribute less money and still receive federal assistance. The case considered whether the agency's method of calculating that was consistent with the federal statute creating and implementing the program.

  A majority of the Court — Breyer writing for Stevens, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Alito — upheld agency's practice under Chevron. The opinion reads rather oddly, though: Instead of just applying the usual Chevron two-step test, Justice Breyer primarily argues that he thinks Congress probably intended to let the agency make the kind of decisions it made. Justice Stevens added a concurrence, saying that he thought the legislative history was clear enough to make clear that the agency practice was okay. Justice Kennedy also wrote a short concurrence, joined by Justice Alito, noting the rather odd structure of Breyer's opinion but concluding that "we must give deference to the author of an opinion in matters of exposition."

  Justice Scalia penned the main dissent, joined by Roberts and Thomas (and, for just one part, Souter). Scalia comes out swinging at Justice Breyer's approach to interpreting the statute:
In Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U. S. 457 (1892), this Court conceded that a church’s act of contracting with a prospective rector fell within the plain meaning of a federal labor statute, but nevertheless did not apply the statute to the church: “It is a familiar rule,” the Court pronounced, “that a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute, because not within its spirit, nor within the intention of its makers.” Id., at 459. That is a judge-empowering proposition if there ever was one, and in the century since, the Court has wisely retreated from it, in words if not always in actions. But today Church of the Holy Trinity arises, Phoenix-like, from the ashes. The Court’s contrary assertions aside, today’s decision is nothing other than the elevation of judge-supposed legislative intent over clear statutory text.