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Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul

Supreme Court of the United States

January 8, 1963, Argued ; May 13, 1963, Decided 1

No. 45

Opinion

 [*133]  [***252]  [**1213]    MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Section 792 of California's Agricultural Code, ] which gauges the maturity of avocados by oil content, prohibits the transportation or sale in California of avocados which contain "less than 8 per cent of oil, by weight . . .  [*134]  excluding the skin and seed." 2 In contrast, federal marketing orders approved by the Secretary of Agriculture gauge the maturity of avocados grown in Florida by standards which attribute no significance to oil content. 3 This case presents the question of the constitutionality of the California statute insofar as it may be applied to exclude from California markets certain Florida avocados which, although certified to be mature under the federal regulations, do not uniformly meet the California requirement [****5]  of 8% of oil.

 [****6]  Appellants in No. 45, growers and handlers of avocados in Florida, brought this action in the District Court for the Northern District of California to enjoin the enforcement of § 792 against Florida avocados certified as mature under the federal regulations. Appellants challenged the constitutionality of the statute on three grounds: (1) that under the Supremacy Clause, Art. VI, the California standard must be deemed displaced by the federal standard for determining the maturity of avocados grown in Florida; (2) that the application of the California statute to Florida-grown avocados denied appellants the Equal  [*135]  Protection of the Laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) that its application unreasonably burdened or discriminated against interstate marketing of Florida-grown avocados in violation of the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8.  A three-judge District Court initially dismissed the complaint. 169 F.Supp. 774. On direct appeal we held, Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc., v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, that the suit was one for a three-judge court under 28 U. S. C. § 2281, and presented a justiciable [****7]  controversy to be tried on the merits.  After a trial the three-judge court denied an injunction against the enforcement of § 792, on the ground that the proofs did not establish that its application to Florida-grown avocados violated any provision of the Federal Constitution. 197 F.Supp. 780. The District  [**1214]  Court held for several reasons that the Supremacy Clause did not operate to displace § 792: no actual conflict existed between the  [***253]  statute and the federal marketing orders; neither the Agricultural Act nor the marketing orders occupied the field to the exclusion of the state statute; and Congress had not ordained that a federal marketing order was to give a license to Florida producers to "market their avocados without further inspection by the states" after compliance with the federal maturity test. 197 F.Supp., at 787. Rather, the court observed, "the Federal law does not cover the whole field of interstate shipment of avocados" but by necessary implication leaves the regulation of certain aspects of distribution to the States. Further, the District Court found no violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the California [****8]  statute was applicable on identical terms to Florida and California producers, and was reasonably designed to enforce a traditional and legitimate interest of the State of California in the protection of California consumers. The District Court concluded, finally, that § 792 did not unreasonably burden or discriminate against interstate commerce in out-of-state  [*136]  avocados -- that the 8% oil content test served in practice only to keep off California grocers' shelves fruit which was unpalatable because prematurely picked. This holding rested in part on the conclusion that mature Florida fruit had not been shown to be incapable of attaining 8% oil content, since only a very small fraction of Florida avocados of certain varieties in fact failed to meet the California test. 4

 [****9]  Both parties have brought appeals here from the District Court's judgment: the Florida growers urge in No. 45 that the court erred in not enjoining enforcement of the state statute against Florida-grown avocados; in No. 49 the California state officials appeal on the ground that the action should have been dismissed for want of equity jurisdiction rather than upon the merits. We noted probable jurisdiction of both appeals. 368 U.S. 964, 965. We affirm the judgment in the respect challenged by the cross-appeal in No. 49. In No. 45 we agree that appellants have not sustained their challenges to § 792 under the Supremacy and Equal Protection Clauses. However, we reverse and remand for a new trial insofar as the judgment sustains  [*137]  § 792 against appellants' challenge to the statute grounded on the Commerce Clause. We hold that the effect of the statute upon interstate commerce cannot be determined on the record now before us.

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373 U.S. 132 *; 83 S. Ct. 1210 **; 10 L. Ed. 2d 248 ***; 1963 U.S. LEXIS 1617 ****

FLORIDA LIME & AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., ET AL. v. PAUL, DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA.

Disposition:  197 F.Supp. 780, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

CORE TERMS

avocados, maturity, Agricultural, commerce, oil, growers, interstate, fruit, commodities, Inspection, consumers, immature, picking, promulgated, cooperate, displace, orderly, grown, compliance, effectuate, region, retail, transportation, injunction, prescribed, stream, gauge, picking-date, depositions, frustrate

Business & Corporate Compliance, Governments, Agriculture & Food, Distribution, Processing & Storage, Product Promotions, Product Quality, Commodity Exchange Act, International Trade Law, Dispute Resolution, International Commercial Arbitration, Arbitration, Negotiable Instruments, Discharge & Payment, Time for Payments, Constitutional Law, Supremacy Clause, General Overview, Congressional Duties & Powers, Commerce Clause, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Federal Powers, Transportation Law, State Powers, Energy & Utilities Law, Oil & Petroleum Products