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Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Adver. Comm'n

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued February 22, 1977 ; June 20, 1977; as amended

No. 76-63


 [*335]  [***389]  [**2437]     MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1973, North Carolina enacted a statute which required, inter alia, all closed containers of apples sold, offered for sale, or shipped into the State to bear "no grade other than the applicable U.S. grade or standard." N.C.Gen. Stat. § 106-189.1 (1973). In an action brought by the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, a three-judge Federal District Court [****7]  invalidated the statute insofar as it prohibited the display of Washington State apple grades on the ground that it unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce.

 [*336]  [**2438]    The specific questions presented on appeal are (a) whether the Commission had standing to bring this action; (b) if so, whether it satisfied the jurisdictional amount requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 1 and (c) whether the challenged North Carolina statute constitutes an unconstitutional burden on interestate commerce.

 [****8]  (1)

Washington State is the Nation's largest producer of apples, its crops accounting for approximately 30% of all apples grown domestically and  [***390]  nearly half of all apples shipped in closed containers in interstate commerce. As might be expected, the production and sale of apples on this scale is a multimillion dollar enterprise which plays a significant role in Washington's economy. Because of the importance of the apple industry to the State, its legislature has undertaken to protect and enhance the reputation of Washington apples by establishing a stringent, mandatory inspection program, administered by the State's Department of Agriculture, which requires all apples shipped in interstate commerce to be tested under strict quality standards and graded accordingly. In all cases, the Washington State grades, which have gained substantial acceptance in the trade, are the equivalent of, or superior to, the comparable grades and standards adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Compliance with the Washington inspection scheme costs the State's growers approximately $ 1 million each year.

In addition to the inspection program, the state legislature [****9]  has sought to enhance the market for Washington apples through the creation of a state agency, the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, charged with the statutory  [*337]  duty of promoting and protecting the State's apple industry. The Commission itself is composed of 13 Washington apple growers and dealers who are nominated and elected within electoral districts by their fellow growers and dealers. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 15.24.020, 15.24.030 (1974). Among its activities are the promotion of Washington apples in both domestic and foreign markets through advertising, market research and analysis, and public education, as well as scientific research into the uses, development, and improvement of apples. Its activities are financed entirely by assessments levied upon the apple industry, § 15.24.100; in the year during which this litigation began, these assessments totaled approximately $1.75 million. The assessments, while initially fixed by statute, can be increased only upon the majority vote of the apple growers themselves. § 15.24.090.

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432 U.S. 333 *; 97 S. Ct. 2434 **; 53 L. Ed. 2d 383 ***; 1977 U.S. LEXIS 123 ****



Disposition:  The Court affirmed. It held that appellee had standing to challenge the statute, that the jurisdictional amount in controversy requirement was met, and that the challenged statute burdened and discriminated against interstate sales of apples from appellee; appellant failed to sustain its burden of showing substantial local benefits flowing from the statute and the unavailability of nondiscriminatory alternatives.


apples, grades, growers, dealers, district court, shipped, closed container, commerce, containers, marketing, display, advertising, inspection, deception, costs, challenged statute, constituents, consumer, membership, regulation, producers, interstate commerce, labels, trade association, discriminated, shipment

Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Amount in Controversy, General Overview, Business & Corporate Compliance, Governments, Agriculture & Food, Product Quality, Justiciability, Standing, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, State Powers, Commerce Clause, Governments, Police Powers, Congressional Duties & Powers, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Transportation Law, Balancing Tests