Legal Memorandum: Deference in Agency Interpretation in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, is a Department or the Commissioner entitled to deference in its interpretation of a statute relevant to the department under its authority?

Area of Law: Administrative Law, Administrative Law & Regulation (Federal and State)
Keywords: Agency interpretation; Deference; Statutory language
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 10/01/2014

As a general rule, no deference is owed an agency interpretation of statutory language where the interpretation does not involve technical language or there is no evidence that this interpretation has ever been applied before.  See Lolling v. Midwest Patrol, 545 N.W.2d 372, 375 (Minn. 1996) (agency’s interpretation of statute only entitled to some weight “when the statutory language is technical in nature and the agency’s interpretation is one of longstanding application.”); Schwanke v. Minn. Dept. of Admin., 834 N.W.2d 588, 594 (Minn. Ct. App. 2013) (where statutory language is not technical and there is no indication that agency had applied statute in accord with its interpretation before, agency interpretation will be given no deference);  Fish v. Minn. Dept. of Human Servs., 748 N.W.2d 360, 365-66 (Minn. Ct. App. 2008) (where statutory language to be construed is not technical in nature, no deference will be given the agency’s interpretation).


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