National Pork Producers Council v. Ross

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: May 11, 2023
  • Case #: 21-468
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Gorsuch, J., for the Court, joined in part by Thomas, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Barrett, JJ. Roberts, C.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part, with Alito, Kavanaugh, and Jackson, JJ.
  • Full Text Opinion

The anti-discrimination principle is fundamental to the dormant Commerce Clause; to show violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, petitioner must show discrimination by a statute on out of state economies, evidenced by a substantial burden on the interstate economy. Additionally, under Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970), if there is a burden on interstate economy from a facially neutral law, that burden is allowed so long as it is outweighed by putative local benefits.

 Petitioners, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation, challenged Proposition 12 for violating the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Proposition 12 forbids the sale of pork meat that comes from breeding pigs in a confined and cruel manner. Petitioners conceded Proposition 12 did not implicate the anti-discrimination principle, and instead alleged it impermissibly burdened interstate commerce under two theories; 1) under the “extraterritoriality doctrine,” and; 2) under the Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970) test. Petitioners argued the “extraterritoriality doctrine” was an almost per se rule grounded in prior dormant Commerce Clause case law, where any state law that had the “practical effect of controlling commerce outside the state” was a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, even if out of state economies were not purposely discriminated against. Petitioners argued the Pike test required the court assess the burden on interstate commerce, and prevent Proposition 12’s enforcement if its burden was excessive in relation to its putative local benefit. The district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim; the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court held petitioners failed to state a claim, and refused to adopt petitioner’s theories under the dormant Commerce Clause. The court determined petitioner’s “extraterritoriality doctrine” incorrectly read case law. Petitioners relied on cases where economic protectionism was enabled by discriminatory statutes, thereby impermissibly burdening out of state commerce and violating the dormant Commerce Clause. Petitioner’s theory would bar any and all state action so long as it effected the national economy, which was too broad a reading because state action often has a ripple effect on the national economy. The court held petitioner’s Pike theory was overstated because Pike was used to detect the practical discriminatory effects of facially neutral laws after a burden was already established. It implicated the anti-discrimination principle, which petitioners conceded was not at issue. The court held petitioners failed to state a claim because they could not show Proposition 12’s plausible substantial harm to interstate commerce. AFFIRMED.

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