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Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council

United States Supreme Court
530 U.S. 363 (2000)



For decades, Myanmar, an Asian nation also known as Burma, was guilty of widespread human-rights violations. The United Nations and many countries often denounced Myanmar for the abuses. In 1996, the State of Massachusetts (defendant) enacted a law entitled “An Act Regulating Contracts with Companies Doing Business with or in Burma (Myanmar)” (the Act). The law prohibited the state from buying products or services from any person or company doing business with Burma. Massachusetts compiled a list of companies that the state refused to do business with as a result of the regulation. Similarly, the U.S. Department of State and Congress also established federal policies and regulations condemning Burma and limiting business with Burma. Specifically, the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act authorized the U.S. president to impose economic sanctions against Burma and to lift those sanctions if the president determined that the sanctions would be against the United States’ national-security interests. In 1998, the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) (plaintiff), a group that included companies on Massachusetts’ restricted-business list, sued Massachusetts in federal district court, contending that the state statute unconstitutionally interfered with the federal government’s foreign-affairs power. The district court ruled in favor of the NFTC, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed. Massachusetts appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Souter, J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

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