U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number


2011 Term


Questions Presented

1. Did the Ninth Circuit err in holding that a "presumption against preemption" requires a "narrow interpretation" of the FMIA's express preemption provision, in conflict with this Court's decision in Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519, 540 (1977), that the provision must be given "a broad meaning"?

2. Where federal food safety and humane handling regulations specify that animals (here, swine) which are or become nonambulatory on federally-inspected premises are to be separated and held for observation and further disease inspection, did the Ninth Circuit err in holding that a state criminal law which requires that such animals not be held for observation and disease inspection, but instead be immediately euthanized, was not preempted by the FMIA?

3. Did the Ninth Circuit err in holding more generally that a state criminal law which states that no slaughterhouse may buy, sell, receive, process, butcher, or hold a nonambulatory animal is not a preempted attempt to regulate the "premises, facilities, [or] operations" of federally-regulated slaughterhouses?

Case Updates

Supreme Court eliminates the presumption against preemption in express preemption cases

January 23, 2012

Held: The FMIA expressly preempts §599f’s application against federally inspected swine slaughterhouses. The FMIA’s preemption clause sweeps widely, and so blocks the applications of §599f challenged here. The clause prevents a State from imposing any additional or different―even if nonconflicting―requirements that fall within the FMIA’s scope and concern slaughterhouse facilities or operations. Also rejected is the broad argument that §599f’s challenged provisions fall outside the FMIA’s scope because they exclude a class of animals from the slaughtering process, while the FMIA extends only to “animals that are going to be turned into meat.” In fact, the FMIA regulates animals on slaughterhouse premises that will never be turned into meat.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

August 29, 2011

The U.S. Chamber asked the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify that the so-called “presumption against preemption” - which effectively places a thumb on the scale in the preemption analysis - does not apply in cases where Congress has expressly stated its intent to preempt state law. The Chamber argued that express preemption provisions should simply be given a fair reading, with a presumption neither favoring nor disfavoring preemption. The case arises out of a preemption challenge brought by the National Meat Association (a trade group of meat packers and processors) to a 2008 California law requiring federally-inspected slaughterhouses to immediately euthanize certain animals, which NMA argues is inconsistent with the Federal Meat Inspection Act’s inspection requirements. When interpreting the preemption provision of the federal law, the lower court ruled that was bound by the "presumption against preemption" to narrowly construe the preemption provision. In its amicus brief, the Chamber argued that the application of the "presumption against preemption" makes no sense in express preemption cases, and indeed, courts have applied the presumption in a haphazard fashion.

Case Documents