The Cedar Rust Act of Virginia, Va. Code Ann. §§ 885 to 893 (1924), makes it unlawful for any person to own, plant or keep alive and standing on his premises any red cedar tree which is or may be the source or host plant of the communicable plant disease known as cedar rust, and any such tree growing within a certain radius of any apple orchard is declared to be a public nuisance, subject to destruction.
Acting under the Cedar Rust Act of Virginia, Va. Code Ann. §§ 885 to 893 (1924), state entomologist ordered tree owners to cut down a large number of ornamental red cedar trees growing on their property as a means of preventing the communication of a rust or plant disease with which they were infected to the apple orchards in the vicinity. The tree owners challenged the constitutionality of the statute under the due process clause. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed the order and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Was the state statute constitutional?
The United States Supreme Court affirmed the state supreme court's judgment affirming the order directing plaintiffs to cut down the trees. The Court held that when forced to make the choice, the state did not exceed its constitutional powers by deciding upon the destruction of the cedar trees in order to save the apple orchards, which in the judgment of the legislature was of greater value to the public.