Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Texas Versus Federal Law on Deference to Administrative Interpretations of Statutes
ExpressO (2011)
  • Scott A Keller

The growth of the administrative state in recent decades means that the issue of deference to an agency’s interpretation of a statute it enforces arises in many contexts. As the issue of agency deference pervades Texas’s legal system, courts and litigants will need to understand when agency statutory interpretations merit deference.

As this article shows, Texas’s doctrine on deference to agency statutory interpretations is not as developed as the federal doctrine. However, the Texas Supreme Court in Railroad Commission of Texas v. Texas Citizens for a Safe Future and Clean Water recently began to develop a comprehensive doctrine on deference to state agency statutory interpretations. Texas Citizens has the potential to become the Court’s seminal decision on agency deference, as it consolidated Texas’s three lines of precedent in this area and began to flesh out a comprehensive standard for agency deference. The Court also explained that while Texas has never “expressly adopted” the federal Chevron doctrine for agency deference, the “analysis” used by Texas “is similar.” Thus, even though Texas has not adopted the federal Chevron standard, Texas courts and litigants will need to familiarize themselves with both Texas and federal law on agency deference.

Although there has been a mountain of scholarship on the federal Chevron doctrine, there has been surprisingly little commentary on Texas law regarding deference to agency statutory interpretations. To date, no one has canvassed the Texas Supreme Court’s precedents on agency deference, much less compared them to historical or existing federal doctrine. This article’s novel comparative examination between Texas and federal law illuminates many facets of Texas’s doctrine on agency deference. Texas Citizens is the Court’s clearest articulation of Texas law on deference to agency statutory interpretations, and it is the first case that actually grapples with how Texas law is similar to and different from the federal Chevron doctrine. That said, Texas Citizens leaves open many important questions on agency deference.

This article seeks to identify and clarify these open issues. Texas and federal law agree on four core prerequisites for agency deference. Beyond that, Texas leaves open many questions on deference to agency statutory interpretations that federal law has already addressed—rather than outright rejecting these facets of the federal doctrine. And Texas may yet recognize even more prerequisites for deference than federal law. This article concludes by considering what Texas administrative law would look like if Texas adopted the federal Chevron doctrine, and it posits the counter-intuitive suggestion that this actually would not change Texas law all that much because federal law has moved closer to Texas on agency deference in the past decade.

  • Administrative,
  • Texas,
  • Chevron,
  • Deference,
  • Agency
Publication Date
August 23, 2011
Citation Information
Scott A Keller. "Texas Versus Federal Law on Deference to Administrative Interpretations of Statutes" ExpressO (2011)
Available at: