Maine Forest Products Council v. Cormier

United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit No. 22-1198 MAINE FOREST PRODUCTS COUNCIL, PEPIN LUMBER, INC., and STÉPHANE AUDET, Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. PATTY CORMIER, in her official capacity as Director of the Maine Bureau of Forestry, and AARON FREY, in his official capacity as Attorney General for the State of Maine, Defendants, Appellants. APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. John A. Woodcock, Jr., U.S. District Judge] Before Barron, Chief Judge, Selya and Howard, Circuit Judges. Jason D. Anton, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Aaron M. Frey, Attorney General, Thomas A. Knowlton, Deputy Attorney General, Chief, Litigation Division, and Sarah E. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General, were on brief, for appellants. Nolan L. Reichl, with whom Joshua D. Dunlap, Kellie MacDonald, and Pierce Atwood LLP, were on brief, for appellees. October 12, 2022 SELYA, Circuit Judge. This appeal requires us to consider whether federal law preempts a Maine law fashioned to prevent Canadian truck drivers from hauling logs within the state under the auspices of the federal H-2A visa program. Finding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their challenge and that the equities counseled in their favor, the district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the law before it took effect. See Me. Forest Prods. Council v. Cormier, 2022 WL 504379 (D. Me. Feb. 18, 2022). Concluding, as we do, that the challenged law is likely preempted as an obstacle to the federal H-2A program, we affirm the district court's issuance of a preliminary injunction. I The logging industry is a fixture of northern Maine. In June of 2021, the Maine legislature enacted Public Law 280, titled "An Act Regarding the Transportation of Products in the Forest Products Industry" (P.L. 280). The relevant portions of the law, codified at Me. Stat. tit. 12, § 8006, prohibit motor carriers and landowners owning at least 50,000 acres of Maine forest land from hiring anyone who is not a "resident of the United States" to drive a vehicle "transport[ing] forest products" from one place to another within Maine. Id. The law imposes an escalating series of fines for violations, reaching as high as $25,000 per violation - 2 - for a landowner and $10,000 per violation for a motor carrier. See id. The sparse legislative history of P.L. 280 indicates that the Maine legislature's primary concern was the federal government's issuance of H-2A visas to Canadian truck drivers, who would then secure employment moving Maine logs. Consistent with this emphasis, P.L. 280 states that a "'[r]esident of the United States' does not include a person eligible to be in the United States under the United States H-2A visa program." Id. § 8006(1)(E). Broadly speaking, the H-2A visa program (which we shall discuss in more detail below) authorizes foreign agricultural workers to perform seasonal work in this country when qualified U.S. workers cannot be found to fill available jobs.1 See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(a), 1188; Overdevest Nurseries, L.P. v. Walsh, 2 F.4th 977, 980 (D.C. Cir. …

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