Supreme Court of the United States

We blogged most recently on December 27, 2018, about several states’ challenges in the Supreme Court to animal welfare laws enacted by both California and Massachusetts. The states sought permission to file suit in the Supreme Court under the Court’s original jurisdiction. On January 7, 2019, the Court denied leave to file.

The Solicitor

On March 16, 2017, and June 6, 2017, we blogged about Missouri’s legal challenge to California’s egg rules.  Now, there are two motions pending in the Supreme Court of the United States challenging the California law and a similar law in Massachusetts.

California requires its egg producers to provide substantially more space per egg-laying hen than is the industry standard. Obviously, that significantly raises the cost of producing any single egg.  To protect its producers, California prohibits the sale of eggs from any other state that do not conform to the same space standards.  Federal courts rejected Missouri’s pre-enforcement challenge on the ground that the State had sustained no concrete injury, and did not reach the merits.

In 2016, Massachusetts adopted a similar law via an initiative petition.  The Massachusetts law applies to pigs and veal, in addition to eggs.  Like California, it prohibits the sale in Massachusetts of eggs, pork or veal that does not comply with Massachusetts’ space requirements.

Earlier this month, Missouri joined twelve other states in seeking leave to sue California in an original action in the Supreme Court.  Missouri attached to its proposed complaint a 41-page expert report analyzing the increased costs imposed by California’s regulations.  According to the report, Missouri pays between $18,000 and $76,000 in additional costs to buy eggs for its correctional facilities.  Nationwide, the report estimates that consumers will pay between $227 million and $911 million in additional costs.  Thus, the Missouri complaint alleges both direct injury to the State in the form of higher prices it must pay for eggs and parens patriae injury to Missouri consumers.

The Missouri complaint alleges that the federal Egg Product Inspection Act (EPIA) preempts any state regulation of eggs that are “in addition to or different from” federal regulations issued under the EPIA.  In 2012, in National Meat Association v. Harris, a unanimous Supreme Court held that identical language in the Federal Meat Inspection Act preempted California’s attempt to regulate slaughterhouses.  Missouri also alleges that California’s egg rules violate the dormant commerce clause by effectively subjecting every State to its regulations.
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