Monday, February 01, 2016

Clarification: The Vermont-GMA GE labeling skirmishes are not over

As a follow-up post to my discussion of state law and federal preemption, I need to provide some clarification on the status of the Vermont case.

In that post, I discussed a decision in Grocery Mfr. Ass'n v. Sorrell, No. 5:14-cv-117 (D. Vt. Apr. 27, 2015), where the district court dismissed several of the plaintiff’s preemption claims.

This was done because Vermont filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to rule 12(b) of the federal rules of civil procedure. There’s a number of reasons a case can be dismissed, such as if the parties settle and want the case dismissed. In this instance, Vermont was requesting that GMA’s claim be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Grossly over simplified, this is basically asking the court to get rid of the case because the law does not actually prohibit or govern the conduct the plaintiff is filing suit over.

The previous post focused on the concept of preemption - one of several reasons a state law could be invalid.

Importantly, GMA made a number of other claims about violations of free speech protections, due process, and the dormant commerce clause. The court DENIED many of Vermont’s motion to dismiss these claims. These claims will be litigated at trial and could ultimately restrict Vermont’s ability to regulate the labeling of GE foods.

Further, The plaintiffs are appealing the decision. This means the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will review the district court’s decision. They may conclude that the claims are potentially preempted and require the district court to reinstate the claims and allow the litigation to move forward.

So lest anyone take away from my last post that the GMO labelling issues are resolved, they are not!

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