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State of Missouri v. Harris

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 3, 2014

STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Plaintiffs,
KAMALA D. HARRIS, et al., Defendants.


KIMBERLY J. MUELLER, District Judge.

The separate motions to intervene brought by the Humane Society of the United States ("HSUS") and the Association of California Egg Farmers ("ACEF") are currently pending before the court. The motions were submitted without argument and the court now GRANTS the motions.


On February 3, 2014, the State of Missouri initiated this action asserting two alternative causes of action under the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses. Compl., ECF No. 2.

On March 5, 2014, a first amended complaint was filed by the State of Missouri, the State of Nebraska, the State of Oklahoma, the State of Alabama, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Terry Branstad, the Governor of the State of Iowa (collectively "plaintiffs"). First Am. Compl. ("FAC"), ECF No. 13.

In the First Amended Complaint, plaintiffs allege as follows. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2 ("Prop 2") "to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals' within California." Id. ¶ 56. Starting in 2015, Prop 2 will prohibit California egg producers from housing egg-laying hens in enclosures that prevent them from standing, lying down, turning around and fully extending their limbs, effectively banning the use of the cage-systems that have become conventional in the industry. Id. ¶ 57. The cost of complying with Prop 2 "would have placed California egg producers at a significant competitive disadvantage when compared to egg producers in Missouri and other states." Id. ¶ 61. "Faced with the negative impact Prop 2 would have on California's egg industry, " the California Legislature passed AB 1437 in 2010, which requires out-of-state egg farmers to comply with the same requirements set forth in Prop 2. Id. ¶¶ 63-64. The California Department of Food and Agriculture promulgated regulations establishing minimum dimensions, set forth in section 1350 of title 3 of the California Code of Regulations ("section 1350"). Id. ¶ 65. "The stated purpose of AB 1437 is to protect California consumers from the deleterious, health, safety, and welfare effects of the sale and consumption of eggs derived from egg-laying hens that are exposed to significant stress that may result in increased exposure to disease pathogens including salmonella.'" Id. ¶ 68. Plaintiffs allege the purpose of AB 1437 "was not to protect public health but rather to protect California farmers from the market effects of Prop 2 by leveling the playing field' for out-of-state egg producers." Id. ¶ 70.

Even assuming AB 1437 serves a legitimate public health purpose within California by limiting the methods of egg production outside California, plaintiffs allege the statute is "expressly and implicitly preempted by the Federal Egg Products Inspection Act, " 21 U.S.C. § 1031, because one of its express purposes "is to protect human health in connection with the consumption of shell eggs." Id. ¶¶ 76-81.

AB 1437 "imposes a substantial burden on interstate commerce by forcing plaintiffs' farmers either to forgo California's markets altogether or accept significantly increased production costs just to comply with California law." Id. ¶ 84. The "necessary capital improvements" in complying with AB 1437 and section 1350 "will cost Plaintiffs' farmers hundreds of millions of dollars." Id. ¶ 86. Even choosing to forgo the California market will impose a substantial burden on interstate commerce because plaintiffs' farmers would produce a surplus of eggs resulting in a decrease in the price of eggs. Id. ¶ 88.

With regard to a violation of the Commerce Clause, plaintiffs allege (1) AB 1437 and section 1350 "are protectionist measures intended to benefit California egg producers at the expense of Plaintiffs' egg producers by eliminating the competitive advantage [their] producers would enjoy once Prop 2 becomes effective;" (2) the provisions "have the purpose and effect of regulating conduct" outside California; and (3) they "impose a substantial burden on interstate commerce by forcing Plaintiffs' egg producers either to increase their production costs... or forgo the largest market in the United States" with no legitimate state purpose. Id. ¶¶ 96-101.

With regard to plaintiffs' alternative Supremacy Clause claim, plaintiffs allege even if the court finds AB 1437 and section 1350 serve a legitimate, non-discriminatory purpose, "the statute and regulations would be in conflict with the express terms of 21 U.S.C. § 1052(b)." Id. ¶¶ 103-105.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a) provides:

On timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who... claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

The court applies a four-part test to determine whether intervention as of right is proper under Rule 24(a): "(1) the application for intervention must be timely; (2) the applicant must have a significantly protectable' interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (3) the applicant must be so situated that the disposition of the action may, as a practical matter, impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest; and (4) the applicant's interest must not be adequately represented by the existing parties in the lawsuit." Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Berg, 268 F.3d 810, 817 (9th Cir. 2001). Rule 24(a) is construed "liberally in favor of potential intervenors." Id. at 818. As plaintiffs do not dispute that the HSUS and ACEF motions were timely, ECF No. 46 at 13, the court considers only the last three prongs of the Berg test.

With regard to the second prong of the Berg test, a proposed intervenor has "a significant protectable interest' in [the] action if (1) it asserts an interest that is protected under some law, and (2) there is a relationship' between [that] legally protected interest and the plaintiff's claims." United States v. City of L.A., 288 F.3d 391, 398 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Donnelly v. Glickman, 159 F.3d 405, 409 (9th Cir. 1998)). "The interest' test is not a clear-cut or bright-line rule, because [n]o specific legal or equitable interest need be established.'" Id. (quoting Greene v. United States, 996 F.2d 973, 976 (9th Cir. 1993)). Under the interest test, courts are required "to make a practical, threshold inquiry' to discern whether allowing intervention would be compatible with efficiency and due process." Id. (citations omitted).

The third prong of the Berg test requires the proposed intervenor to show that resolution of the action may practically impair its ability to protect its interest. Cal. ex rel. Lockyer v. United States, 450 F.3d 436, 442 (9th Cir. 2006). As the Ninth Circuit observes, "[i]f an absentee would be substantially affected in a practical sense by the determination made in an action, he should, as a general rule, be entitled to intervene.'" Berg, 268 F.3d at 822 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 24 Advisory Committee's Note (1966 Amendments)).

Proposed intervenors generally have a low burden to show that their interests are inadequately represented, as required by the fourth prong of the Berg test. Arakaki v. Cayetano, 324 F.3d 1078, 1086 (9th Cir. 2003). Courts consider the following three factors in deciding whether the burden is met: "(1) whether the interest of a present party is such that it will undoubtedly make all of a proposed intervenor's arguments; (2) whether the present party is capable and willing to make such arguments; and (3) whether a proposed intervenor would offer any necessary elements to the proceeding that other parties would neglect." Id. (citing California v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 792 F.2d 775, 778 (9th Cir. 1986)). "The most important factor in determining the adequacy of representation is how the interest compares with the interests of existing parties." Id. There is a presumption that an existing party to an action adequately represents the proposed intervenor's interest when both share the same ultimate objective. Id. To rebut this presumption, the proposed intervenor must make a "very compelling" showing of inadequacy otherwise "it will be presumed that a state adequately represents its citizens when the applicant shares the same interest." Id. (internal citation and quotation omitted).

If the proposed intervenor argues that its interpretation of a contested statute differs from that of the government, "the proposed intervenor must demonstrate a likelihood that the government will abandon or concede a potentially ...

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