California’s Egg Law is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court

California’s Egg Law is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court

California is unique among the several states for a lot of different reasons. One of the things that make the state so unique is how many of its laws are passed through ballot initiatives and referendums. Few other states have such a generous and easy path to getting an issue on the ballot and exercising a direct form of democracy.

Because of this unique way to legislate, every year it seems that a new law is put on the books after the population of California votes on it. That is what happened in 2008 when California voters approved a ballot initiative that made new requirements for how eggs are to be produced if they are to be sold in California.

That ballot initiative in 2008 required that all eggs sold in California be produced by chickens that have enough room in their cages to stretch all their limbs. As a state that consumes nearly 10 billion eggs each year, while producing only half that number, the new law constituted a big change for poultry farmers across the country. The state of California gave farmers until 2015 to be compliant with the new law, but now 12 states are challenging the law in court.

Legal Challenge under the Commerce Clause

The challenge to the new law regarding egg production for eggs headed to sale in California is being challenged under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause, found in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, says that Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign countries, Indian tribes, and the several states. This was an important clause at the time the Constitution was adopted because it prevented states from putting burdensome regulations on interstate commerce and established uniformity of trade among the states.

Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this clause in the Constitution to mean two things. One, that states cannot regulate commerce that travels interstate because Congress is given that mandate in the Constitution; and two, that there is a dormant part to the Clause that prevents states from regulating their own commerce in a way that has a negative effect on other states’ commerce.

This is the framework for the suit against California. The states suing California are arguing that because of the new law that chickens must have so much room in their cages, consumers across the country are being forced to pay more for eggs. In fact, in their suit the claimants cite a study that says California egg regulations have cost consumers $350 million annually. This is the basis of their suit. The claimants are not waiting to take the case through the court system and are appealing directly to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Your Business Law Partners

This lawsuit may not affect the average business in the United States, but following such case law developments is extremely important for the lawyers representing agriculture companies. At the Royse Law Firm, we remain up-to-date on every important legal development that affects our clients. We would love to talk with you about the services we offer. Contact us today.

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