An Empirical Study of Obstacle Preemption in the Supreme Court

27 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2011

Date Written: August 29, 2011


The Supreme Court’s federal preemption decisions are notoriously unpredictable. Traditional left-right voting alignments break down in the face of competing ideological pulls. The breakdown of predictable voting blocs leaves the business interests most affected by federal preemption uncertain of the scope of potential liability to injured third parties and unsure even of whether state or federal law will be applied to future claims.

This empirical analysis of the Court’s decisions over the last fifteen years sheds light on the Court’s unique voting alignments in obstacle preemption cases. A surprising anti–obstacle preemption coalition is forming as Justice Thomas gradually positions himself alongside the Court’s liberals to form a five-justice voting bloc opposing obstacle preemption.

Keywords: Preemption, Obstacle, Purposes and Objectives, Conflict, Impossibility, Frustration-of-Purpose, Implied, Attitudinal, Federalism

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K23, K40

Suggested Citation

Dickinson, Gregory M., An Empirical Study of Obstacle Preemption in the Supreme Court (August 29, 2011). Nebraska Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 4, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Gregory M. Dickinson (Contact Author)

St. Thomas University - School of Law ( email )

16401 N.W. 37th Ave.
Miami, FL 33054
United States

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
CA 94305
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics