Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363; 120 S. Ct. 2288;147 L. Ed. 2d 352 (2000)

Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363; 120 S. Ct. 2288; 147 L. Ed. 2d 352 (2000)

Facts—Massachusetts adopted a law limiting its agencies from purchasing goods or services from companies doing business with Burma (Myanmar). Soon thereafter, Congress passed a law, subsequently implemented by an executive order, vesting the president with broad powers to impose sanctions on Burma. Working through the Trade Council, companies challenged these laws as being in conflict with, and preempted by, national actions.

Question—Does the Massachusetts legislation limiting trade with Burma conflict with actions of the Congress and the president?


ReasonsJ. Souter (9–0). Congress may preempt state law either directly or through implication. Congress intended to “provide the President with flexible and effective authority over economic sanctions against Burma,” with which the Massachusetts legislation conflicted. Congress further intended to limit such sanctions “to a specific range,” which was superseded by the Massachusetts legislation. The Massachusetts legislation further interfered with the nation’s attempt to develop a “comprehensive, multilateral strategy to bring democracy to and improve human rights practices and the quality of life in Burma.” In so doing, the law undermined the president’s capacity for effective diplomacy, as demonstrated by foreign complaints against the Mas sachusetts law and by testimony from executive officials about the adverse effects of the state laws.

In concurrence, J. Scalia argued that the intention of the federal legislation was clear on its face and he would thus have disregarded testimony by its sponsors and others who introduced or ratified it.

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