What does cigarette maker Philip Morris USA Inc. have in common with a 19th century customs officer who is sued by New England ship owners to prevent him from enforcing an embargo on trade with England during the War of 1812?
If you are having trouble answering that question, you are not alone. Lisa Watson, who sued Philip Morris in an Arkansas court alleging that the company’s cigarette advertising violated that state’s unfair trade laws, is puzzled, too. Philip Morris successfully removed her case to federal court by invoking the “federal officer removal statute,” 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1), early versions of which were enacted to protect federal law enforcement officials from hostile state court lawsuits that might “paralyze the operations of the [federal] government” in places where federal revenue and customs laws were unpopular. Tennessee v. Davis, 100 U.S. 257, 263 (1880). The company convinced the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it should be allowed to litigate Watson’s state law claims in federal court on the ground that it was, in the words of the statute, a “person acting under” a federal officer, because its cigarette advertising was closely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.
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