Impact of Federal Preemption on State Powers

Impact of Federal Preemption on State Powers

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When Congress “preempts the field,” laws or regulations made by the federal government in a given policy area supersede those made by the states. If fact, when preemption occurs, Congress does not delegate any powers to the states in that particular area. Federal preemption stems from The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (Article VI) which states the following:


“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”


When the federal government does not preempt a specific field, states have the power to pass and enforce laws and regulations which govern that policy area. Examples might include the states’ power to set liquor laws or regulations governing gambling.

When preemption cases go to the Supreme Court, the justices look at the legislation that Congress has passed related to the issue at hand, to determine if federal preemption in that area was established. If there is something in the federal legislation declaring federal preemption, then only federal law must be followed. If there is nothing in the legislation that claims federal preemption, then both federal and state law must be followed.

This week, you review Wyeth v. Levine and Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, two cases brought to the Supreme Court by injured parties related to regulations on drug labeling and medical equipment. In both cases, the Supreme Court determined that the federal government had not preempted the field in its federal regulations regarding medical equipment manufacturing and drug safety labeling. Therefore, the companies were obliged to abide by state laws and regulations, as well as the federal ones.

To prepare for this Discussion:


  • Review the article “The Supremacy Clause and Federal Preemption.” Consider express and implied federal preemption and think about how both might limit state power.
  • Review the U.S. Supreme Court cases Wyeth v. Levine and Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr in the LexisNexis Academic database. Consider arguments made for and against federal preemption in these cases.
  • Select one federal preemption court case to use for this assignment. You may use the Oyez website listed in this week’s resources, the Internet, or the Walden library to find a federal preemption court case. Note: Please do not select the Wyeth v. Levine or Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr cases.
  • Consider the arguments for and against preemption in the case you selected.
  • Think about how the outcomes of the case impact the scope of state power to enact regulations related to specific policy areas.


With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 4 a brief description of the case you selected. Then explain how the outcomes of the case impact the scope of state power to enact regulations related to specific policy areas. Be specific and use examples to illustrate your explanation.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the LearningResources.


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