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Burma Case II: National Foreign Trade Council v. Baker

Update on Case II (November 5, 1998)

Federal Appeals Court upheld Judge Tauro's ruling striking down as unconstitutional the Massachusetts Burma selective purchasing law

for the New England Burma Roundtable
June 23, 1999

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against MA Burma Law

Today, Federal Appeals Court upheld Judge Tauro's ruling striking down as unconstitutional the Massachusetts Burma selective purchasing law. It is vital that we urge the Massachusetts Attorney General, Thomas Reilly, to appeal this unfair and sweeping decision. In a broad, 78-page ruling the Court found that the Massachusetts Burma Law was unconstitutional on three counts. The Court ruled that the law was preempted by the federal sanctions on Burma and that the law impinged upon both Congress's powers to regulate foreign trade as well as the federal government's foreign policy powers.

A full copy of the ruling is available here.

Under the precedent set by this broad ruling, any state or local selective purchasing law that indirectly affects foreign trade or foreign policy is vulnerable to court challenge. This ruling endangers selective purchasing laws with regard to Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Tibet and the Swiss banks. It also could be the basis for challenge of "Buy America" laws and city & state restrictions of the purchase of rainforest or old-growth timber.

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly has 90 days in which to decide whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Please let him know that you want him to continue to uphold the law.

Take Action: Urge the MA Attorney General to Appeal It is vital that Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly *immediately* hear from people around the country in support of the Massachusetts Burma Law. It is likely that corporations will strongly lobby Attorney General Reilly to drop his defense of the law. We need to generate a couple of hundred letters to show him that the Massachusetts Burma Law has broad support throughout the country.

Please write or fax a simple one-page letter within the next few days. Feel free to make a phone call too but, remember, letters have more impact!

Attorney General Thomas Reilly
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
1 Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 727-2200
(617) 727-5778 - fax

Here are some suggestions for your letter:

  • Tell Attorney General Reilly that you support the Massachusetts Burma Law. Urge him to appeal the recent court ruling against the law to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Include a personal paragraph. Explain your interest in Burma and/or selective purchasing laws. If you live in Massachusetts, describe your deep roots in your community.
  • Thank Attorney General Reilly for his office's strong support for the Massachusetts Burma selective purchasing law.
  • Declare your strong support for the Massachusetts Burma Law. Explain your outrage that a group of corporations would seek to require Massachusetts to do business with corporations that support brutal dictatorships abroad.
  • Reiterate your request that the Attorney General appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
**[[Please send a copy of your letter to the New England Burma Roundtable (address below) so that we can gauge the response to our action alerts.]]**

Thank you for your help!

Simon Billenness
*for the New England Burma Roundtable*

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