A COURT case brought by six state attorneys general to block enforcement of California laws and regulations prescribing standards for the conditions under which chickens must be kept in order for their eggs to be sold in the state was dealt a blow Nov. 18. However, it does leave the door open to refile a challenge.
The court ruled that the state attorneys general failed to establish "parens patriae" standing, which grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf.
The states of Missouri, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma said the 2010 law — which dictates how out-of-state producers must comply with egg-laying standards required under California's approved Proposition 2 — is an unconstitutional violation of interstate commerce and usurps the supremacy of federal law. They estimated a cost of $120 million to remodel laying hen houses to meet the California standards and said the state unfairly imposed burdens on farmers outside its borders.
The latest ruling found that the states "failed to articulate an interest apart from the interests of private egg producers, who could have filed an action on their own behalf." In addition, it said the "allegations about potential economic effects of the challenged laws, after implementation, were necessarily speculative," and "the allegations of discrimination were misplaced because the laws do not distinguish among eggs based on their state of origin."
Although the "plaintiffs have not satisfied the requirements of parens patriae standing," the court opinion stated that, "in theory, plaintiffs could allege post-effective-date facts that might support standing. As a result, the complaint should have been dismissed without prejudice."
Gary Baise, an attorney at OFW Law who has been following the case closely, said the ruling is a "huge loss for the way the complaint was filed but a huge win to refile a complaint that is a correct one."
Today, more is known about how egg prices have changed due to implementation of the law promulgated for setting laying hen cage regulations.
Baise worked with the Utah attorney general's office to file an amicus brief showing that states do have merit in the case if justified properly.