Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dickinson v. Dickinson

Hon. Jess Dickinson, today, dissenting in MWUA v. Union National Fire Insurance Co.:
While I do think it is appropriate – indeed, prudent – for this Court to carefully consider a governmental agency’s application and understanding of an ambiguous statute, that is as far as it goes. Taking an agency’s interpretation into account – even giving it great weight – is one thing; but deferring to the agency’s interpretation is quite another.


And as for this Court deferring to the Commissioner’s interpretation of the statute, I can think of no more dangerous perversion of our system of government than to say that the executive branch of government should interpret its own powers. Next thing you know, we’ll be deferring to our law enforcement agencies’ interpretation of the Fourth Amendment.
Hon. Jess Dickinson, 2008, in Hill Brothers Construction Co. v. Miss. Dep't of Transportation, 42 So. 3d 497:
This Court has held that the "interpretation given [a] statute by the agency chosen to administer it should be accorded deference." Williams v. Puckett, 624 So. 2d 496, 499 (Miss. 1993) (citing Gill v. Mississippi Dep't of Wildlife Conservation, 574 So. 2d 586, 593 (Miss. 1990)).
... This is not the first time we have found Presiding Justice Dickinson to be of interest on standards of review.


  1. Maybe it's just me, but "to give deference to" and "to defer to" connote two different things. There seems to be an air of finality to "to defer to" that's missing in "to give deference to." I don't know, Jess is a pretty smart lawyer and Judge, and I'd give deference to his views, and might even defer to them.

  2. I believe there is ample case law using the terms indistinguishably.

    Dickinson *is* a very smart guy, but now and then -- Bluewater, his dissent in some judicial-conduct cases, this -- he seems to want to tear up precedent, not always even with any acknowledgment that he's doing it.

    Lord knows, I practice enough in admin law that I would be quite happy to see any deference to the agency's interpretation (which seldom merits it) diminished. But that is just not the law in Mississippi.

  3. Here you go, Bill:

    "This Court has held that when 'an agency interprets a statute that it is responsible for administering, we must defer to the agency's interpretation so long as the interpretation is reasonable.'" Hinds County v. Miss. Comm'n on Envtl. Quality, 61 So. 3d 877.

    "This Court defers to an administrative agency's interpretation of a governing statute." Miss. Methodist Hosp. & Rehab. Ctr., Inc. v. Miss. Div. of Medicaid, 21 So. 3d 600 (Miss. 2009).

    ... P.S. re: my previous comment - actually, I would want agency deference torn up only in those appeals *against* the agency. When the agency rules *for* my client, it is then of course wise and reasonable, and its interpretations merit great deference.

  4. Your post script is eminently correct, sir.

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