Ass'n des Eleveurs de Canards v. Harris

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 08-30-2013
  • Case #: 12-56822
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judge Fisher; Senior District Judge Daniel
  • Full Text Opinion

For the purposes of § 25982 of the California Health & Safety Code, which prohibits the sale of products that are the result of force feeding birds to enlarge their livers beyond normal size, a court does not abuse its discretion by refusing to grant a preliminary injunction to enjoin the state from enforcing the statute when the plaintiff “fails to raise serious questions” about a Due Process challenge; Section 25982 does not violate the Commerce Clause.

The Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d’Oies due Québec (“Canadian Farmers”) raise ducks for the production and sale of foie gras in California. Among the several stages of duck feeding, the final stage involves force feeding by inserting a plastic tube directly into a duck’s esophagus. In July 2012, § 25982 of the California Health & Safety Code came into effect, banning “the sale of products that are the result of force feeding birds to enlarge their livers beyond normal size.” The Canadian Farmers sued to preliminarily enjoin the State from enforcing the provision, alleging both Due Process and Commerce Clause violations, both of which the district court denied. The Canadian Farmers argued that the statute violated the Due Process clause because the definition of “force feeding” is vague, and the statute does not give “fair notice of what conduct is prohibited.” The Ninth Circuit rejected this argument, holding that the term “force feeding” is not vague because the example used in the statute is the same process the Canadian Farmers used to fatten the ducks’ livers. The panel also held that the statute does give fair notice of prohibited conduct because the natural reading of “force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size” describes the objective conduct of force feeding the duck. The word “purpose” in the clause has nothing to do with the farmers’ subjective motive as the Canadian Farmers argued. Lastly, the panel rejected the Commerce Clause challenge, holding: (1) § 25892 is not discriminatory because it concerns all entities and unilaterally restricts how the product is made; and (2) § 25892 does not prohibitively regulate interstate commerce. Denial of preliminary injunction AFFIRMED; REMANDED.

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