397 U.S. 137 (1970), 301, Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 301
Citation:397 U.S. 137, 90 S.Ct. 844, 25 L.Ed.2d 174
Party Name:Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.
Case Date:March 02, 1970
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 137

397 U.S. 137 (1970)

90 S.Ct. 844, 25 L.Ed.2d 174



Bruce Church, Inc.

No. 301

United States Supreme Court

March 2, 1970

Argued January 13, 1970




Appellee company grows cantaloupes of superior quality in Parker, Arizona. Since the company lacks packing sheds in Parker, it transports the cantaloupes to its nearby facilities in California, where they are sorted, inspected, packed, and shipped in containers that bear the name of the California packer. Appellant official, acting under the Arizona Fruit and Vegetable Standardization Act, which is designed to prevent deceptive packaging, entered an order prohibiting the company from shipping its cantaloupes outside the State unless they were packed in containers in a manner approved by appellant. Appellant contends that his order is necessary to ensure that the cantaloupes be identified as of Arizona origin. Appellee brought this suit for injunctive relief challenging the constitutionality of the order, which would have the effect of requiring appellee to build packing facilities in or near Parker at a cost of about $200,000. A three-judge District Court issued an injunction holding that the order constituted an unlawful burden on interstate commerce.


1. Appellant's order burdens interstate commerce, since the cantaloupes were destined to be shipped from Arizona to an ascertainable location in California immediately after harvest, and application of the challenged statute would require an operation now conducted outside the State to be performed within the State so it can be regulated there. Pp. 140-142.

2. The burden on interstate commerce imposed by appellant's order is unconstitutional, since Arizona's minimal interest in identifying the origin of appellee's cantaloupes to enhance the reputation of Arizona producers cannot justify subjecting appellee to the substantial capital expenditure of building and operating in Arizona a packing plant that it does not need. Pp. 142-146.


Page 138

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellee is a company engaged in extensive commercial farming operations in Arizona and California. The appellant is the official charged with enforcing the Arizona Fruit and Vegetable Standardization Act.1 A provision of the Act requires that, with certain exceptions, all cantaloupes grown in Arizona and offered for sale must "be packed in regular compact arrangement in closed standard containers approved by the supervisor. . . ."2 Invoking his authority under that provision, the appellant issued an order prohibiting the appellee company from transporting uncrated cantaloupes from its Parker, Arizona, ranch to nearby Blythe, California, for packing and processing. The company then brought this action in a federal court to enjoin the order as unconstitutional. A three-judge court was convened. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2284. After first granting temporary relief, the court issued a permanent injunction upon the ground that the challenged order constituted an unlawful burden upon interstate commerce. This appeal followed. 28 U.S.C. § 1253. 396 U.S. 812.

Page 139

The facts are not in dispute, having been stipulated by the parties. The appellee company has for many years been engaged in the business of growing, harvesting, processing, and [90 S.Ct. 846] packing fruits and vegetables at numerous locations in Arizona and California for interstate shipment to markets throughout the Nation. One of the company's newest operations is at Parker, Arizona, where, pursuant to a 1964 lease with the Secretary of the Interior, the Colorado River Indian Agency, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, it undertook to develop approximately 6,400 acres of uncultivated, arid land for agricultural use. The company has spent more than $3,000,000 in clearing, leveling, irrigating, and otherwise developing this land. The company began growing cantaloupes on part of the land in 1966, and has harvested a large cantaloupe crop there in each subsequent year. The cantaloupes are considered to be of higher quality than those grown in other areas of the State. Because they are highly perishable, cantaloupes must, upon maturity, be immediately harvested, processed, packed, and shipped in order to prevent spoilage. The processing and packing operations can be performed only in packing sheds. Because the company had no such facilities at Parker, it transported its 1966 Parker cantaloupe harvest in bulk loads to Blythe, California, 31 miles away, where it operated centralized and efficient packing shed facilities. There, the melons were sorted, inspected, packed, and shipped. In 1967, the company again sent its Parker cantaloupe crop to Blythe for sorting, packing, and shipping. In 1968, however, the appellant entered the order here in issue, prohibiting the company from shipping its cantaloupes out of the State unless they were packed in containers in a manner and of a kind approved by the appellant. Because cantaloupes in the quantity involved can be so packed only

Page 140

in packing sheds, and because no such facilities were available to the company at Parker or anywhere else nearby in Arizona, the company faced imminent loss of its anticipated 1968 cantaloupe crop in the gross amount of $700,000. It was to prevent this unrecoverable loss that the District Court granted preliminary relief.3

After discovery proceedings, an agreed statement of facts was filed with the court. It contained a stipulation that the practical effect of the appellant's order would be to compel the company to build packing facilities in or near Parker, Arizona, that would take many months to construct and would cost approximately $200,000. After briefing and argument, the court issued a permanent injunction, finding that "the order complained of constitutes an unlawful burden upon interstate commerce."4

The appellant's threshold contention here is that, even though the challenged order expressly forbids the interstate bulk shipment of the company's cantaloupes, it imposes no burden upon interstate commerce. If the Arizona Act is complied with, he argues, all that will be regulated will be the intrastate packing of goods destined for interstate commerce. Articles being made ready for interstate movement are not necessarily yet in interstate commerce, which, he says, begins only when the articles are delivered to the interstate shipper. In making this argument, the appellant relies on this Court's

Page 141

decisions in Federal Compress Co. v. McLean, 291 U.S. 17, and Chassaniol v. City of Greenwood, 291 U.S. 584. Both of those cases involved taxes imposed [90 S.Ct. 847] by Mississippi on a cotton warehouse and compress business located within that State. The taxes were nondiscriminatory, and were levied both on the warehoused cotton itself and on certain processes necessary to ready it for subsequent resale. The taxes were challenged as unlawful burdens on interstate commerce, since most of the taxed cotton was ultimately to be shipped to out-of-state buyers. The Court upheld the constitutionality of the Mississippi taxes. It is not entirely clear from the Court's opinions whether their rationale was that the taxes were imposed before interstate commerce had begun, or that the burden upon commerce was, at the most, indirect and remote.

But, in any event, the decisions do not support the argument that the order in the present case does not affect interstate commerce. In the first place, those cases involved cotton that had come to rest in Mississippi, and, "[b]efore shipping orders [were] given, it [had]...

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