Judge Holds that San Francisco “Changed Its Position” After Lawsuit Was Filed
On July 17, 2020, Judge Richard Seeborg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, sitting in San Francisco, issued an order in a case in which the International Fur Federation (“IFF”) is challenging San Francisco’s ban on the sale of fur products.
The ban went into full effect on January 1, 2020, and San Francisco took the position in its online FAQs that a retailer of fur products outside San Francisco violates the ban — which carries fines of up to $1,000 per violation — by selling fur products via its website and shipping them to consumers in San Francisco. IFF filed suit against San Francisco and its Director of Public Health that same month. In April, Judge Seeborg allowed two animal rights groups to intervene in the case.
On IFF’s first claim — for a judgment declaring that the San Francisco ban cannot be read to apply to online sales — the court recognized on July 17th, 2020 that, after IFF sued the San Francisco, the City changed its position and has now “expressly disavowed any intention of enforcing the Fur Ban in this way.” In light of this, the court dismissed the first claim for lack of jurisdiction, explaining in its order: “Retailers who want to sell fur to San Francisco residents may do so online.”
Although it recognized that the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce “estimates the loss caused by the Fur Ban to San Francisco retailers who carry fur to be around $45 million annually,” the court held that the burden on commerce was not “substantial” under Ninth Circuit precedent, even suggesting that “faux fur may be sold or manufactured instead.”
The court granted IFF leave to file an amended complaint within 21 days to allege additional facts concerning the burden on commerce, which IFF intends to do. In the meantime, we are gratified that the Court has recognized that “fur manufactured outside San Francisco may still flow freely into the city if it is purchased online.”
IFF-Americas Regional CEO