This article explores a continuing disagreement among Justices of the United States Supreme Court regarding the proper doctrinal framework for federal preemption jurisprudence. This important difference in views became apparent in the four federal preemption cases that the Supreme Court decided during its 1999-2000 term. The article describes this critical disagreement among the Justices, places it in the larger context of preemption doctrine, and then carefully analyzes a number of possible resolutions.
Federal preemption is an area of enormous practical and theoretical importance. It is a subject that has earned a regular place on the Supreme Court's docket for many years now. It is also a constitutional law doctrine that has special importance for tort law. Indeed, the principal case analyzed in this article, Geier v. American Honda Motor Company, addresses the question of whether a products liability claim brought in state court was preempted by certain provisions of The National Traffic and Motor Safety Act of 1966. It is a five-to-four decision featuring a spirited split among members of the Court regarding fundamental aspects of preemption analysis and it remains today an important precedent in the area of federal preemption.
Marin Roger Scordato, Federal Preemption of State Tort Claims, 35 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 1 (2001).