Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of California Egg Lawsuit

The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “Six states lacked the legal right to challenge a California law that prohibits the sale off eggs from chickens that are not raised in accordance with strict space requirements, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

“The states — Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Iowa — failed to show how the law would affect them and not just individual egg farmers, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The court upheld a lower court decision that dismissed the lawsuit.

“California voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 that set the space requirements for egg-laying hens in the state. The standards say chickens must spend most of their day with enough space to lie down, stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs.”

The AP article noted that, “California egg farmers raised concerns that the measure would put them at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in other states. In 2010, California legislators expanded the law to ban the sale of eggs from any hens that were not raised in compliance with California’s animal care standards. The California law cites concerns about protecting people from salmonella and other illnesses.

The six states argued that the law would force their egg farmers to stop selling in California or spend hundreds of millions of dollars complying with the California standard. Ninth Circuit Judge Susan Graber said that argument did not give the states standing to file suit.”

And, Kristine A. Tidgren explained today at the Ag Docket Blog (Iowa State University Extension)  that, “Not among the plaintiffs were any egg producers or egg producer groups. No doubt egg producers themselves may have been concerned about potential negative publicity accompanying their participation in such a lawsuit. The state leaders sought to stand in the place of impacted egg producers and citizens in parens patriae capacity. This is a doctrine under which a state can act as the legal protector (or parent) of its citizens. But this is where the lawsuit failed. In October of 2015, a federal judge dismissed the case out of hand before reaching the merits. She found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to file the lawsuit because they did not show that the law would harm their citizens as a whole. The court also found that the states did not show that there was a genuine threat of enforcement by California.

“The State’s promptly appealed, and yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court. The court ruled that the States failed to establish parens patriae standing. Specifically, the Court ruled that the States failed to articulate an interest apart from the interests of an identifiable group of private egg producers who could have filed an action on their own behalf.”


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