In 1996, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted the Burma Law which effectively prohibited state agencies and authorities from purchasing goods or services from any person doing business with Burma. Both the Legislature and the Governor acknowledged that the statute was a foreign policy initiative intended to effect change in Burma. The National Foreign Trade Council sued in federal court in Massachusetts, contending that the Burma Law was unconstitutional. The Court agreed, and the Commonwealth appealed.
NELF filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit on behalf of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Retailers Association, arguing that the Burma Law was an unconstitutional foreign policy initiative which produced no economic benefit to the Commonwealth but rather increased the cost of goods and services. The First Circuit held that the Burma Law unconstitutionally impinged on the federal government’s exclusive authority to conduct foreign affairs, violated the foreign commerce clause, and was preempted by federal sanctions against Burma. The U.S. Supreme Court granted the Commonwealth’s cert. petition. On behalf of AIM, the Retailers Association, and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, NELF filed an amicus brief on the merits in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the sanctions were preempted by those Congress enacted.