California Table Grape Commission wins final legal challenge
October 5, 2010
• U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear appeal keeps appellate decision in place
• ‘This case has been a cloud … and it is a welcome relief to finally have it end’
Table grape growers challenging the right of the California Table Grape Commission to levy assessments have lost their last appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to take their case.
That means a 9th District U.S. Court of Appeals decision upholding the commission will stand as the final word.
Delano Farms Company, the Susan Neill Company, and Lucas Brothers Partnership had sued over the mandatory assessments to pay for generic advertising, contending that it violated the First Amendment.
But both a trial court and the appellate court ruled against them. “The Commission’s promotional activities constitute government speech that is immune to challenge under the First Amendment,” the court of appeals ruled last November.
The legal challenge began 14 years ago. In April 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger in Fresno rejected the First Amendment challenge to the commission’s programs, concluding, among other things, that the speech of the commission, a creation of the state legislature, is that of the government and therefore immune from constitutional challenge.
“Since 1967, the majority of California’s fresh grape farmers have looked to the commission to help increase demand for their product. Every five years they have voted to continue working together, through the commission, because it makes a difference,” says commission President Kathleen Nave in a written statement Tuesday. “This case has been a cloud over their efforts and it is a welcome relief to finally have it end in their favor.”
The California Table Grape Commission was created by the California legislature in 1967 to increase worldwide demand for fresh California grapes through a variety of research and promotional programs.