CROSBY v. NATIONAL FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
99-474
Petitioner 
Crosby
Respondent 
National Foreign Trade Council
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court, supporting affirmance)
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Facts of the Case 

In 1996, the Massachusetts Burma Law, which restricted state entities from buying goods or services from companies doing business with Burma, was passed. Afterwards, Congress also imposed mandatory and conditional sanctions on Burma. Businesses with ties to Burma landed on Massachusetts' "restricted trade" list. The list came to include 34 members of the National Foreign Trade Council (Council), a non-profit advocate for American companies that do business abroad. The Council filed suit against Stephen Crosby, the Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance, and other state officials in federal court, claiming that the state act unconstitutionally infringes on the federal foreign affairs power, violates the Foreign Commerce Clause, and is preempted by the Federal Burma Law. The District Court permanently enjoined the state act's enforcement, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The court also found that the Massachusetts Burma Law violated the Supremacy Clause because the state was acting in an area of unique federal concern, foreign policy, through a balanced, tailored approach.

Question 

Is the Massachusetts Burma Law, which restricts the authority of its agencies to purchase goods or services from companies doing business with Burma, unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for National Foreign Trade Council, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 6, Section 2: Supremacy Clause

Yes. In a opinion delivered by Justice David H. Souter, the Court held that "the state Act is preempted, and its application unconstitutional, under the Supremacy Clause." Justice Souter wrote for the Court that Massachusetts' law created an obstacle to the President's discretion to control economic sanctions against Burma, interfered with Congress's intention to limit economic pressure against the Burmese Government, and was at odds with the President's authority to speak for the United States among the world's nations to develop a comprehensive, multilateral Burma strategy. Therefore, the Massachusetts Burma Law "is invalid under the Supremacy Clause...owing to its threat of frustrating federal statutory objectives."

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CROSBY v. NATIONAL FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_474>.
CROSBY v. NATIONAL FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_474 (last visited September 10, 2014).
"CROSBY v. NATIONAL FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1999/1999_99_474.