Supreme Court Upholds California’s Farmed Animal Confinement Ban, Proposition 12

The United States Supreme Court upheld California’s Proposition 12 that bans the sale of animal products produced using intensive confinement practices such as gestation crates, battery cages, and veal crates. Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the majority decision, rejecting the dormant commerce clause argument advanced by the National Pork Producers Council, the American Farm Bureau, and their amici, stating, “While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list.” All of the Justices unanimously rejected the pork industry’s claim that Prop 12’s ban on the sale of such products is unconstitutional merely because it has indirect effects on out-of-state producers. Justice Gorsuch was joined further by Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Coney Barrett in voting 5-4 to reject the industry’s secondary claim that the benefits of Prop 12 are outweighed by the negative effects on commerce. Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented on that secondary point, arguing that the 9th Circuit had misapplied existing Pike jurisprudence, and that the case therefore should have been remanded for a determination of whether the law imposes an impermissible burden on out-of-state entities.