Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual: An Opportunity to Correct the Problems of ERISA Preemption
21 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 17, 2015
Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. is an opportunity for the U.S. Supreme Court to correct the three fundamental problems of its current ERISA preemption jurisprudence. While incrementalism has its virtues, on balance, it would be better for the Court to use Gobeille to correct the basics of ERISA preemption.
Specifically, the Court should acknowledge the tension between Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. and the Court’s subsequent decision in New York State Conference of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co. by reconsidering the statute afresh. As part of such reconsideration, the Court should construe ERISA § 514(a) as creating a presumption for preemption. Such a construction of § 514(a) respects the text of the statute without yielding to the potential indeterminacy of the statute’s broad language. Finally, the Court should jettison the notion that traditional areas of state law as defined by the Court are immune from ERISA’s more expansive than usual preemption and should instead acknowledge what the statute says: Per §§ 514(b)(2)(A) and 514(b)(4), the areas immunized from ERISA’s more stringent preemption are – and are only – state banking, securities, insurance, and criminal laws.
In the final analysis, a system of statutory law requires courts to take statutes seriously.
Keywords: ERISA, preemption, statutory interpretation, pensions, federalism
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