Jim Porter: CA laws protecting chickens challenged by several states
January 8, 2017
California likes and protects its animals. In the 2008 general election, California voters adopted Proposition 2, effective January 1, 2015, laying down, pun intended, protective measures for egg-laying hens.
No Confined Chickens
Under Prop 2, chickens may not be confined for the majority of any day "in a manner that prevents [them] from: (a) Lying down, standing up, and fully extending [their] limbs; and (b) Turning around freely." A violation is punishable by a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail or both.
Two years later, California adopted more Shell Egg Laws: A shelled egg may not be sold in the Golden State unless the egg is a product of an egg-laying hen that was confined in compliance with the Prop 2 animal care standards.
Bottom line, all eggs sold in California must comply with Prop 2.
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In 2014, the State of Missouri filed suit in federal court in California challenging the Shell Egg Laws, soon joined by the States of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Iowa.
The Humane Society of the United States then joined — as did the Association of California Egg Farmers — supporting the Shell Egg Laws. My favorite argument against the new law was "housing chickens in large pens will allow them to run around and hurt themselves."
The federal district court ruled the Plaintiffs lacked standing. The case made it to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
California and the Intervenors challenged the lawsuits filed by the egg producing States claiming they did not have parens patriae standing. You know what that is, right? Sometimes I worry about you readers.
To establish parens patriae standing, the State must articulate an interest apart from the interests of private parties, i.e., the State must be more than a nominal party. In this case, that means that the Plaintiff States must have a basis for filing the lawsuit, different than individual egg producers.
Two Billion Eggs
According to the lawsuit, Missouri farmers produced nearly two billion eggs in 2012 and $171M in revenue for the State. Nebraska is one of the top 10 largest egg producers and Alabama one of the top 15. Kentucky farmers produced over one billion eggs in 2012. Iowa farmers top the charts producing over 14.4 billion eggs per year. As Iowa told the court, the cost to comply with Prop 2 would be substantial.
California's Prop 2 will put a serious crimp on these out-of-State egg producers or will cause them to comply, which I guess was the point.
The Court of Appeals upheld Prop 2, ruling the out-of-State egg producers could have sued directly. Alleging harm to the egg farmers is insufficient to establish standing by the States when the egg farmers could have sued themselves. No parens patriae standing.
Thus my question, why didn't the egg producers sue in their own right?
Next week: New laws.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno. Jim's practice areas include: development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.portersimon.com.