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Chateau Foghorn LP v. Hosford

Court of Appeals of Maryland

August 28, 2017

CHATEAU FOGHORN LP
v.
WESLEY HOSFORD

          Argued: March 30, 2017

         Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-14-005119

          Barbera, C.J. Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, JJ.

          OPINION

          GETTY, J.

         "The Government of the United States, . . . though limited in its powers, is supreme; and its laws, when made in pursuance of the Constitution, form the supreme law of the land[.]"

Chief Justice John Marshall, McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316, 406 (1819).

         "[B]ecause the States are independent sovereigns in our federal system, we have long presumed that Congress does not cavalierly pre-empt state-law causes of action. In all pre-emption cases, and particularly in those in which Congress has legislated . . . in a field which the States have traditionally occupied, we start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress."

Justice John Paul Stevens, Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 485 (1996) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         In all cases involving the interplay between the laws issued by the federal government and those enacted by the states, courts must balance the twin principles stated above: First, pursuant to the Supremacy Clause, [1] federal law enacted under the delegated powers and authority of the federal government is the supreme law of the land; Second, there is a presumption against federal laws or regulations preempting or superseding state laws, particularly in fields that have historically been the province of the states.

         In the instant case we are called upon to apply those principles to Maryland Code, (1974, 2010 Repl. Vol.), Real Property Article ("RP") § 8-402.1, which provides that a court ruling on a landlord-tenant dispute must conclude that a breach of a lease is "substantial and warrants an eviction" before granting judgment for possession of the leased premises. We must decide whether the Maryland statute conflicts with, and is thus preempted by, federal law and regulations mandating that federally-subsidized Section 8 project-based housing developments include provisions in their tenant lease agreements to provide that engaging in any drug-related criminal activity on or near the leased premises is grounds for termination of the lease. For the following reasons, we shall conclude that RP § 8-402.1 does not conflict with the congressional intent behind the federal law and regulations at issue and, therefore, we shall hold that the statute is not preempted by federal law.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Wesley Hosford, the Respondent, is severely disabled and has been wheelchair-bound since 1987. He suffers from incomplete paralysis in his extremities, with muscle spasms and sensations leaving him in daily pain.[2] Since 1989, Mr. Hosford has resided at Ruscombe Gardens Apartments, an apartment building in Baltimore City owned by Chateau Foghorn LP ("Foghorn"), the Petitioner. Ruscombe Gardens Apartments provides housing for low-income elderly and disabled tenants that is subsidized through a federal "Section 8" project-based rental subsidy program.[3]

         In 2012, Mr. Hosford renewed his lease with Ruscombe Gardens, and signed a "Drug-Free Housing Policy" addendum to the lease, which provided, in pertinent part,

DRUG-FREE HOUSING POLICY
IN CONSIDERATION of the execution or renewal of the lease of the dwelling unit identified in the lease, Owner and Tenant agree as follows:
1. Tenant, any member of tenant's household, or a guest or other person under the tenant's control shall not engage in or facilitate criminal activity on or near the project, including, but not limited to, violent criminal activity or drug-related criminal activity. . . .
2. Tenant or any member of tenant's household, or a guest or other person under the tenant's control shall not engage in any act intended to facilitate criminal activity, including drug-related criminal activity on or near the project premises.
3. Tenant or members of the household will not permit the dwelling unit to be used, or to facilitate, criminal activity, including drug-related criminal activity or possession of drug paraphernalia, regardless of whether the individual engaging in such activity is a member of the household or a guest.
4. Tenant or member will not engage in the manufacture, sale, or distribution of illegal drugs at any location, whether on or near project premises or otherwise.
* * *
6. VIOLATION OF THE ABOVE PROVISIONS SHALL BE A MATERIAL VIOLATION OF THE LEASE AND GOOD CAUSE FOR TERMINATION OF TENANCY. A single violation of any of the provisions of this policy shall be deemed a serious violation and a material noncompliance with the lease. Unless otherwise provided by law, proof of violation shall not require criminal conviction, but shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.

(Emphasis in original.)

         In 2014, Ruscombe Gardens Apartments was experiencing a bed bug infestation, and Foghorn hired an extermination company to treat units in the complex. On June 10, 2014, two exterminators entered Mr. Hosford's unit to perform extermination treatment and saw a marijuana plant growing in a pot in his bathtub.[4] They reported this to the apartment's management office. A security guard employed by Ruscombe Gardens Apartments went to Mr. Hosford's unit and saw the same marijuana plant.

         Thereafter, police were called, and an officer responded and came to Mr. Hosford's unit. The officer examined the plant in the bathroom, concluded it was marijuana, and confiscated it. He then issued Mr. Hosford a criminal citation for the possession of marijuana. A police chemist tested the plant found in the apartment and concluded that it was marijuana. Subsequently, Mr. Hosford was charged in the District Court of Maryland sitting in Baltimore City with possession of less than ten grams of marijuana. Ultimately, a nolle prosequi was entered as to that charge.

         In June 2014, Foghorn gave Mr. Hosford a notice of termination of his lease. When he did not vacate the unit within thirty days of that notice, Foghorn initiated an eviction action pursuant to RP § 8-402.1[5] against Mr. Hosford in the District Court of Maryland sitting in Baltimore City, claiming that Mr. Hosford had breached the terms of the drug-free housing agreement addendum to his lease. Mr. Hosford thereafter filed a timely prayer for a jury trial in the circuit court, claiming that the value of his right to continued occupation of his apartment exceeded the $15, 000 threshold set by statute.[6]

         The case was subsequently transferred to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for a jury trial. Prior to the scheduled date of trial, Foghorn filed a motion for summary judgment with a supporting memorandum, asserting:

• That there was no genuine dispute of fact that Mr. Hosford had possessed marijuana in his apartment;
• That, while Mr. Hosford had not been convicted of a crime for that marijuana possession, his possession of marijuana was illegal under federal law and, at the time of his citation by a Baltimore City police officer, was also illegal under Maryland law, and therefore constituted "drug-related criminal activity" in violation of the drug-free housing policy addendum to Mr. Hosford's lease;
• That the provisions of the drug-free housing policy addendum permitting eviction for drug-related criminal activity to Mr. Hosford's lease were mandated by federal law and regulations governing leases for federally-subsidized housing; and,
• That the requirement in RP § 8-402.1 that a trial court order eviction only if a tenant's breach is "substantial and warrants an eviction" should be held to be preempted by federal law in Mr. Hosford's case, because that requirement conflicts with federal law and regulations governing the Section 8 project-based housing program which, according to Foghorn, "have vested [Foghorn] with the discretion to determine whether drug-related criminal activity by a tenant is substantial and warrants eviction, without any qualifications."

         In response, Mr. Hosford claimed that there was a dispute of material fact as to whether the plant in his apartment was marijuana. He also noted that his criminal citation was for possession of less than ten grams of marijuana. And, he presented medical records to show his history of muscle spasms and other sensations and pain as a result of his paralysis, along with an expert affidavit that the use of marijuana "is likely to provide . . . therapeutic or palliative relief from such symptoms. On the basis of that information, he asserted that even if he had possessed marijuana his actions did not constitute a criminal offense pursuant to Maryland Code, Criminal Law Article ("CR") §§ 5-601(c)(2)(ii) or 5-602(c)(3)(iii)(1), and thus were not a breach of his lease. Finally, he contended that even if he had breached the terms of his lease, the trial court could still determine whether the breach was "substantial and warrants an eviction" pursuant to RP § 8-402.1.

         On March 18, 2015, the circuit court held a hearing on Foghorn's motion for summary judgment. On March 23, 2015, the circuit court issued a written order granting summary judgment in favor of Foghorn as well as a judgment of restitution of possession. In a thorough and well-written memorandum opinion accompanying its order, the circuit court set forth its reasoning for granting summary judgment.

         The circuit court began by addressing the evidence as to Mr. Hosford's possession of marijuana. The circuit court noted that Foghorn had provided a certified Laboratory Report from the police chemist stating that material from the plant had been analyzed and found to contain marijuana. The circuit court therefore concluded that there was not a dispute of material fact that a marijuana plant was found growing in Mr. Hosford's rental unit.

         The circuit court then turned to whether Mr. Hosford's possession of marijuana was illegal activity. The circuit court noted that Maryland no longer "punishes the possession of less than ten grams of marijuana as a crime[, ]" as CR § 5-601(c)(2)(ii) now provides that possession of less than ten grams of marijuana is "a civil offense." However, the court also noted that the law amending CR § 5-601 to add that provision did not become effective until October 1, 2014-more than four months after the marijuana plant was discovered in Mr. Hosford's apartment. See 2014 Md. Laws ch. 158. Thus, that provision did not apply to Mr. Hosford's case.

         The circuit court also addressed another statutory provision raised by Mr. Hosford, CR §§ 5-601(c)(3)(iii)(1), which provides that it is an "affirmative defense" in a prosecution for marijuana if a defendant can show that he has a "debilitating medical condition" for which "marijuana is likely to provide the defendant with therapeutic or palliative relief." Although the circuit court noted that no appellate court had yet considered the effect of that affirmative defense, the court concluded that "the statute and the ordinary operation of affirmative defenses in criminal cases suggest that a defendant successfully asserting the affirmative defense would escape conviction altogether." Therefore, the circuit court concluded that "if Maryland law alone were the basis for [Foghorn's] assertion of criminal activity by Mr. Hosford, " then his conduct might not be considered criminal.

         However, the circuit court noted that, under federal law, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance.[7] And the circuit court concluded that, unlike under Maryland law, there was no "explicit or implicit necessity exception for the medical use of marijuana" in the federal Controlled Substances Act.[8] The circuit court therefore held that "[Foghorn] may proceed on the basis that the possession of any quantity of marijuana is a crime under federal law."

         The circuit court then turned to the last remaining issue, whether the court or a jury is "allowed to review the landlord's exercise of discretion in treating this particular possession of marijuana as warranting termination of the lease and eviction." The circuit court characterized the issue as one of federal preemption, stating,

Federal law compels [Foghorn] to include in its leases for subsidized housing provisions that forbid tenants from engaging in or permitting any criminal drug activity on the premises and that give it the authority to evict a tenant for breaching that promise. See Dep't of Housing and Urban Dev. v. Rucker, 535 U.S. 125, 130-31 (2002). Although these terms are strict, the severity is tempered by federal regulations giving landlords some measure of discretion in deciding whether to seek eviction. Id. at 128-29. [Foghorn] argues that this federal law preempts RP § 8-402.1(b)(1) to the extent [it] vests in Maryland courts discretion to determine either that an alleged breach is substantial or that it warrants eviction.

         In analyzing the preemption issue, the circuit court discussed Brown v. Housing Opportunities Commission, 350 Md. 570 (1998) and Grady Management, Inc. v. Epps, 218 Md.App. 712 (2014), as cases dealing with the relationship between RP § 8-402.1 and federal regulations governing federally-subsidized housing. However, the circuit court concluded that neither case provided significant guidance, as neither involved an issue of preemption.

         Instead, the circuit court relied upon three out-of-state cases: Milwaukee City Housing Authority v. Cobb, 860 N.W.2d 267 (Wis. 2015); Boston Housing Authority v. Garcia, 871 N.E.2d 1073 (Mass. 2007); and Scarborough v. Winn Residential L.L.P./Atlantic Terrace Apartments, 890 A.2d 249 (D.C. 2006).[9] The circuit court concluded that all three out-of-state cases stood for the proposition that "although federal law vests a landlord renting subsidized housing with discretion not to pursue eviction in all instances of criminal activity, state courts cannot be given discretion to overrule the landlord's exercise of discretion." (Emphasis in original.) Therefore, the circuit court held that the requirement in RP § 8-402.1(b)(1) that a court must determine that a tenant's breach "was substantial and warrants an eviction" before awarding a judgment of possession "is preempted by federal law to the extent that it would permit a judge or jury either to exercise discretion de novo or to review the landlord's exercise of discretion in deciding to proceed with an eviction."[10] Mr. Hosford subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, which the circuit court denied.

         Thereafter, Mr. Hosford noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. In a reported opinion, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court. Hosford v. Chateau Foghorn LP, 229 Md.App. 499 (2016). The Court of Special Appeals considered three issues, only one of which is before us:

1. In an eviction action involving federally-subsidized housing, does federal law preempt the requirement in [RP] § 8-402.1 that a court must conclude that a breach of a lease be "substantial" and "warrant eviction" before granting judgment for possession of the leased premises?[11]

Id. at 502.

         The Court of Special Appeals held that federal law did not preempt RP § 8-402.1. The intermediate appellate court discussed the various types of federal preemption- express, field, and conflict-and concluded that the only applicable preemption doctrine was conflict preemption. Id. at 510-12. The Court of Special Appeals noted that the intent of Congress is the focus of a preemption analysis. Id. at 510. The court also stated that in determining congressional intent, courts start "with the basic assumption that Congress did not intend to displace state law, " see id. (quoting Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 746 (1981)), a presumption that is at its strongest when the particular area of law is traditionally the domain of the states. Id. at 510-11. The Court of Special Appeals held that "[i]n instances where federal law regulates an area traditionally within the domain of state law, the state law must do 'major damage' to 'clear and substantial' federal interests before the Supremacy Clause will demand that state law will be overridden[.]" Id. at 511 (quoting Hillman v. Maretta, 133 S.Ct. 1943, 1950 (2013) (quoting Hisquierdo v. Hisquierdo, 439 U.S. 572, 581 (1979))).

         The Court of Special Appeals determined that "landlord-tenant law is traditionally within the domain of state law[.]" Id. at 512. The court therefore held that under the standard of conflict preemption set forth in Supreme Court case law "the disputed portions of RP § 8-402.1 are preempted only if they cause 'major damage' to 'clear and substantial['] federal interests embedded in the federal law." Id.

         The Court of Special Appeals then analyzed the relevant federal statute, regulations and agency guidance documents, see id. at 512-22, and identified two "closely-related" federal interests: first, that "residents of federally-supported housing be protected against the effects of criminal activity in general, and drug-related criminal activity in particular"; and, second, that "landlords have discretion to initiate eviction proceedings in such situations[, ]" although "only by recourse to state or local landlord-tenant law" through filing an eviction action in state court. Id. at 508-09.[12] The Court of Special Appeals then evaluated whether RP § 8-402.1 did "major damage" to those interests so as to require preemption.

         The intermediate appellate court noted that, due to the federal interest in affording landlords discretion to evict tenants for drug-related criminal activity, "a landlord does not have to consider equitable factors in determining whether to pursue eviction for drug-related conduct." Id. at 523. However, the Court of Special Appeals also determined that "a landlord cannot effect an eviction by itself-it must go to court and obtain a judgment entered in accordance with non-pre-empted state law." Id. Consequently, the Court of Special Appeals concluded that there was no federal congressional intent to require "state courts to order evictions upon a finding of a breach of the lease due to drug-related activity[, ]" without considering equitable considerations mandated under state law. Id. at 523-24.

         The Court of Special Appeals concluded that, based on its analysis of the federal interests and applicable case law, "permitting State courts to exercise discretion and consider equitable factors when deciding whether to rule in a landlord's favor in an eviction action concerning federally-subsidized housing is consistent with federal law and policy." Id. at 529. However, the Court of Special Appeals also emphasized that a trial court's discretion to review a landlord's decision in the federally-subsidized housing context should be narrow, and that courts should presume that drug-related criminal activity "ordinarily" warrants eviction, explaining,

We believe that courts can strike the proper balance between federal policy and state law by presuming that drug-related criminal activity is a breach that ordinarily warrants eviction under RP § 8-402(b)(1), but that this presumption may be rebutted by equitable factors that arise in a given case. This approach gives proper weight both to the exercise of the landlord's discretion accorded under federal law to seek eviction, and to Maryland's public policy, embodied in RP § 8-402.1(b), that tenants-especially impoverished and disabled ones-not be evicted automatically when good reasons are presented and credited to show that such eviction would be not only unduly harsh but not necessary to accommodate the Federal objectives.

Id. at 529-30 (emphasis in original).[13] As the circuit court did not exercise such discretion, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment. Id. at 530. Foghorn thereafter petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari, which we granted on December 2, 2016. 450 Md. 661 (2016).[14]

         On appeal to this Court, Foghorn presents a single question for our review, [15] which we have rephrased: Did the Court of Special Appeals err in holding that, in an eviction action for a breach of lease, the requirements in RP § 8-402.1(b)(1) that a court must determine that a tenant's breach of lease was "substantial" and "warrants an eviction" in order to award judgment for the restitution of the possession of the premises to the landlord are not preempted by federal law and regulations governing federally-subsidized Section 8 project-based housing?[16]

         That question can be broken down into two parts:

A. Was the Court of Special Appeals correct in holding that landlord-tenant law is an area that is traditionally within the domain of state law and, on that basis, applying a heightened presumption against federal preemption of Maryland's landlord-tenant law, including RP § 8-402.1(b)(1)?
B. If the answer to Question A is "yes, " was the Court of Special Appeals correct in holding that RP § 8-402.1(b)(1) does not conflict with the congressional intent behind the statute and regulations mandating certain lease provisions in Section 8 project-based housing and, therefore, that the presumption against federal preemption is not overcome as to RP § 8-402.1(b)(1)?

         For the reasons stated below, we shall hold that the Court of Special Appeals correctly concluded that landlord-tenant law is an area traditionally within the domain of the states. And, although we shall decline to endorse the "major damage" standard of review for areas of law within the traditional domain of the states, we shall hold that the intermediate appellate court correctly applied a heightened presumption against federal preemption. Finally, we shall hold that the Court of Special Appeals also was correct to hold that the presumption against preemption is not overcome as to RP § 8-402.1 because that statute does not stand in conflict with Congress' intent behind the mandatory lease provisions at issue. Therefore, we shall affirm the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Foghorn, and Foghorn appeals from the Court of Special Appeals' reversal of that grant of summary judgment. A court may grant summary judgment in favor of the moving party "if the motion and response show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the party in whose favor judgment is entered is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Md. Rule 2-501(f).

The question of whether a trial court's grant of summary judgment was proper is a question of law subject to de novo review on appeal. In reviewing a grant of summary judgment under [Maryland] Rule 2-501, we independently review the record to determine whether the parties properly generated a dispute of material fact, and, if not, whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and construe any reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts against the moving party.

Boland v. Boland, 423 Md. 296, 366 (2011) (quoting Haas v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 396 Md. 469, 479 (2007)).

         Here, the material facts are not in dispute-the parties do not contest that Mr. Hosford possessed marijuana, and Mr. Hosford has not appealed from the circuit court's ruling that such possession was illegal activity in breach of the terms of his lease with Foghorn. Instead, the sole issue before this Court is the purely legal issue of whether a trial court could properly find that Mr. Hosford's breach was "substantial and warrants eviction" pursuant to RP § 8-402.1(b)(1), or whether that statute is preempted by federal law and regulations governing lease provisions in federally-subsidized housing. Like all questions of law, we shall review that issue without deference to the conclusions of the trial court, or the Court of Special Appeals.

         III. DISCUSSION

         "Federalism, central to the constitutional design, adopts the principle that both the National and State Governments have elements of sovereignty the other is bound to respect." Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387, 398 (2012). The existence of two sovereigns allows for "the possibility that laws can be in conflict or at cross-purposes." Id. at 398-99. The Supremacy Clause was adopted with such conflicts in mind, and provides that federal law "shall be the supreme law of the land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding." U.S. Const. Art. VI, § 2.

         Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has noted that "[t]his relatively clear and simple mandate has generated considerable discussion in cases where [courts] have had to discern whether Congress has pre-empted state action in a particular area." Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525, 540-41 (2001). Indeed, courts have determined that there are at least three instances in which state laws are preempted: express, field, and conflict preemption. First, "[w]here Congress has expressly stated its intent to preempt state law, federal law prevails" (express preemption). Wells v. Chevy Chase Bank, F.S.B., 377 Md. 197, 209-10 (2003); see also Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. at 399 ("[T]he States are precluded from regulating conduct in a field that Congress, acting within its proper authority, has determined must be regulated by its exclusive governance."). Second, preemption occurs "even where Congress has not expressly stated its intention in that regard, if there is evidence of Congress' intent to occupy a given field, and the state law falls within that field" (field preemption). Wells, 377 Md. at 210 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. at 399 ("The intent to displace state law altogether can be inferred from a framework of regulation 'so pervasive . . . that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it'" or where there is a "'federal interest . . . so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject.'") (quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230 (1947)). Third, "state laws are preempted when they conflict with federal law" (conflict preemption). Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. at 399; see also, United Food & Comm. Workers Int'l Union, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al., ___Md. ___, No. 42, Sept. Term 2016 (June 22, 2017). Conflict preemption "includes cases where compliance with both federal and state regulations is a physical impossibility, " as well as "those instances where the challenged state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress[.]" Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. at 399 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         In this case, the Court of Special Appeals stated that "[t]he parties agree, as do we, that the concepts of express and field preemption are not applicable to this case." Hosford, 229 Md.App. at 512. We agree with our brethren on the intermediate appellate court; the parties do not raise the issue of express or field preemption in this appeal, and we discern no congressional intent to expressly preempt state landlord-tenant law for federally- subsidized housing or to occupy the entire field of landlord-tenant law as to federally-subsidized housing. Nor does Foghorn claim that it is impossible to comply with both the state and federal law at issue. Consequently, we shall limit our discussion to whether RP § 8-402.1 "stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress" and therefore must be deemed to be preempted under the doctrine of conflict preemption.

         In conflict preemption, as in all preemption cases, "[t]he purpose of Congress is the ultimate touchstone[.]" Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 485 (1996) (quoting Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n, Local 1625, AFL-CIO v. Schermerhorn, 375 U.S. 96, 103 (1963)). Congress' intent "primarily is discerned" by examining the language of the federal statute(s) that allegedly preempt the state law as well as the "statutory framework" surrounding the federal statute(s). Id. at 486 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). But, courts should also consider the "structure and purpose of the statute as a whole, as revealed not only in the text, but through the reviewing court's reasoned understanding of the way in which Congress intended the statute and its surrounding regulatory scheme to affect business, consumers, and the law." Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         In addition to federal statutes, "an agency regulation with the force of law can preempt conflicting state requirements." Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U.S. 555, 576 (2009). However, when assessing the preemptive effect of federal regulations, courts perform their "own conflict determination, relying on the substance of state and federal law and not on agency proclamations of pre-emption." Id. Furthermore, as the Court of Special Appeals noted in its discussion of preemption, "[f]ederal agencies sometimes express views regarding preemption questions in ways that lack the formality of regulations, e.g., by compliance handbooks, other guidance materials, and commentaries on regulations." Hosford, 229 Md.App. at 511. In such instances, "courts have afforded some weight to the agency's explanation of its view, but no weight to its conclusion[.]" Id. As the Supreme Court explained in Wyeth,

In prior cases, we have given some weight to an agency's views about the impact of [state] tort law on federal objectives when the subject matter is technica[l] and the relevant history and background are complex and extensive. Even in such cases, however, we have not deferred to an agency's conclusion that state law is pre-empted. Rather, we have attended to an agency's explanation of how state law affects the regulatory scheme. While agencies have no special authority to pronounce on pre-emption absent delegation by Congress, they do have a unique understanding of the statutes they administer and an attendant ability to make informed determinations about how state requirements may pose an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. The weight we accord the agency's explanation of state law's impact on the federal scheme depends on its thoroughness, consistency, and persuasiveness.

555 U.S. at 576-77 (emphasis and second alteration in original) (citations and internal ...


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