Preemption

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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A doctrine based on the SUPREMACY CLAUSE of the U.S. Constitution that holds that certain matters are of such a national, as opposed to local, character that federal laws preempt or take precedence over state laws. As such, a state may not pass a law inconsistent with the federal law.

A doctrine of state law that holds that a state law displaces a local law or regulation that is in the same field and is in conflict or inconsistent with the state law.

Article VI, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution provides that the "? Constitution, and the Laws of the United States ? shall be the supreme Law of the Land." This Supremacy Clause has come to mean that the national government, in exercising any of the powers enumerated in the Constitution, must prevail over any conflicting or inconsistent state exercise of power. The federal preemption doctrine is a judicial response to the conflict between federal and state legislation. When it is clearly established that a federal law preempts a state law, the state law must be declared invalid.

A state law may be struck down even when it does not explicitly conflict with federal law, if a court finds that Congress has legitimately occupied the field with federal legislation. Questions in this area require careful BALANCING of important state and federal interests. Problems arise when Congress fails to make its purpose explicit, which is often the case. The court must then draw inferences based on the presumed objectives of federal law and the supposed impact of related STATE ACTION.

The federal right to regulate interstate commerce under the COMMERCE CLAUSE of the U.S. Constitution has resulted in federal preemption of state LABOR LAWS. Likewise, the Supreme Court, in Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, 411 U.S. 624, 93 S. Ct. 1854, 36 L. Ed. 2d 547 (1973), declared that state and local laws that interfere with comprehensive federal environmental laws and regulations are invalid.

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In California v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 495 U.S. 490, 110 S. Ct. 2024, 109 L. Ed. 2d 474 (1990), the Supreme Court held that state regulations imposing minimum flow rates on rivers used to generate hydroelectric power were preempted by the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C.A. § 791 et seq. [1933]). In Mississippi Power and Light Company v. Mississippi ex rel. Moore, 487 U.S. 354, 108 S. Ct. 2428, 101 L. Ed. 2d 322 (1988), the Court held that the Federal...

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