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Law School Case Brief

Crosby v. Nat'l Foreign Trade Council - 530 U.S. 363, 120 S. Ct. 2288 (2000)


Preemption will be found where it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal law, and where under the circumstances of a particular case, the challenged state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. What is a sufficient obstacle is a matter of judgment, to be informed by examining the federal statute as a whole and identifying its purpose and intended effects.


Petitioner state officials sought a writ of certiorari challenging court of appeals' judgment affirming injunctive relief in favor of respondent foreign trade council, arguing Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, §§ 22G-22M, 40F1/2 (1997) (Burma Law), neither unconstitutionally infringed on federal foreign affairs or commerce powers nor was preempted by the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act (Act), § 570, 110 Stat. 3009-166 to 3009-167 (1997) (enacted by the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, § 101(c), 110 Stat. 3009-121 to 3009-172) (1997).


Within the arenas of both domestic and international law, will a federal law preempt a conflicting state law under the Supremacy Clause?




The court found the Burma Law was an obstacle to the accomplishment of Congress' objectives under the Act. It undermined the intended purpose and natural effect of delegation of discretion to the President to control economic sanctions against Burma, the limitation of sanctions under the Act, and the directive to the President to diplomatically develop a comprehensive, multilateral strategy towards Burma. The court noted representations by the executive branch and formal diplomatic protests demonstrated the Burma Law stood in the way of Congress's diplomatic objectives. The judgment was affirmed.

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