Resource: Case Brief Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., et al. in Ch. 2, section 2-6, “Commerce Powers,” of the text.
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Case 2.1. Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., et al., 505 U.S. 504 (1992)
Cipollone brought suit against Liggett for violation of several New Jersey consumer protection statutes alleging that Liggett (and other cigarette manufacturers) were liable for his mother’s death because they engaged in a course of conduct including false advertising, fraudulently misrepresenting the hazards of smoking, and conspiracy to deprive the public of medical and scientific information about smoking. Liggett urged the court to dismiss the state law claims contending that the claims related to the manufacturer’s advertising and promotional activities were preempted by two federal laws: (1) the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, and (2) the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969.
Synopsis of Decision and Opinion
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Cipollone, holding that his claims relying on state law were preempted by federal law. The Court cited both the text of the statute and the legislative history in concluding that Congress’s intent in enactment of the laws was to preempt state laws regulating the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. Because Congress chose specifically to regulate a certain type of advertising (tobacco), federal law is supreme to any state law that attempts to regulate that same category of advertising.
Words of the Court: Preemption
“Article VI of the Constitution provides that the laws of the United States shall be the supreme Law of the Land. Thus, [. . .] it has been settled that state law that conflicts with federal law is ‘without effect.’ [. . .] Accordingly, ‘the purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone’ of pre-emption analysis. Congress’s intent may be ‘explicitly stated in the statute’s language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose.’ In the absence of an express congressional command, state law is preempted if that law actually conflicts with federal law, [. . .], or if federal law so thoroughly occupies a legislative field ‘as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it.’ [. . .] [Cipollone’s] claims are preempted to the extent that they rely on a state-law ‘requirement or prohibition . . . with respect to . . . advertising or promotion.’“
|Given the Supreme Court’s language and the result of this case, is Congress’s preemption power broad or narrow? Explain your answer.
|Does the Supreme Court’s ruling bar all residents of New Jersey, or any other state, from bringing suit against a tobacco company for false advertising or promotion? Why or why not?
|Why would Congress want to preempt state law regarding the advertising and promotion of tobacco products? Do you agree with their decision to do so? Why or why not?