In November 2018, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 12, the Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act. This law requires in-state and out-of-state farmers to provide additional living space for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and calves raised for veal by 2022 if the farmers wish to continue doing business within the state. In response, North American Meat Institute (NAMI), whose members account for approximately 95% of the country’s output of various meat products, filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking a preliminary injunction against Proposition 12’s enforcement. NAMI contended Proposition 12 violated the Dormant Commerce Clause, a legal doctrine stemming from Congress’s commerce powers under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, prohibiting states from passing laws discriminating against interstate commerce. Ultimately, the district court declined to grant NAMI’s request for a preliminary injunction, which the Ninth Circuit affirmed was not an abuse of judicial discretion. The Ninth Circuit correctly held Proposition 12 does not clearly discriminate against interstate commerce. However, the Ninth Circuit erred in holding the law was not extraterritorial legislation because this decision contravened Supreme Court decisions prohibiting states from regulating conduct occurring outside of their borders. As a result, the Ninth Circuit decision opens the floodgates for California to enact similar legislation essentially controlling the national economy. The best solution to this issue, particularly regarding animal welfare reform, is for Congress to establish national guidelines that meaningfully improve the lives of farm animals while prohibiting individual states from controlling the conduct of the other forty- nine state actors.
The United States of California: Ninth Circuit Tips the Dormant Commerce Clause Scales in Favor of the Golden State's Animal Welfare Legislation,
49 Pepp. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/plr/vol49/iss2/4