Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc v. Camp Barlow v. Collins

Decision Date03 March 1970
Docket Number249,Nos. 85,s. 85
Citation25 L.Ed.2d 192,90 S.Ct. 838,397 U.S. 159
PartiesASSOCIATION OF DATA PROCESSING SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS, INC., et al., Petitioners, v. William B. CAMP, Comptroller of the Currency of the United States, et al. Clemon BARLOW et al., Petitioners, v. B. L. COLLINS, etc., et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Harold Edgar, New York City, for petitioners, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Peter L. Strauss, Washington, D.C., for respondents.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question to be decided in this case is whether tenant farmers eligible for payments under the upland cotton program enacted as part of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 1194, 7 U.S.C. § 1444(d) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), have standing to challenge the validity of a certain amended regulation promulgated by the respondent Secretary of Agriculture in 1966.

The upland cotton program incorporates a 1938 statute, § 8(g) of the Soil Conservation and Demestic Allotment Act, as amended, 52 Stat. 35 and 205, 16 U.S.C. § 590h(g), thereby permitting participants in the program to assign payments only 'as security for cash or advances to finance making a crop.' 1 The regulation of the respondent Secretary of Agriculture in effect until 1966 defined 'making a crop' to exclude assignments to secure 'the payment of the whole or any part of a cash * * * rent for a farm.' 20 Fed.Reg. 6512 (1955).2 Following passage of the 1965 Act, however, and before any payments were made under it, the Secretary deleted the exclusion and amended the regulation expressly to define 'making a crop' to include assignments to secure 'the payment of cash rent for land used (for planting, cultivating, or harvesting.)' 31 Fed.Reg. 2815 (1966).3

Petitioners, cash-rent tenant farmers suing on behalf of themselves and other farmers similarly situated, filed this action in the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. They sought a declaratory judgment that the amended regulation is invalid and unauthorized by statute, and an injunction prohibiting the respondent federal officials from permitting assignments pursuant to the amended regulation.4 Their complaint alleged that the petitioners are suffering irreparable injury under the amended regulation because it provides their landlord 'with the opportunity to demand that (they) and all those similarly situated assigned the (upland cotton program) benefits in advance as a condition to obtaining a lease to work the land.'5 As a result, the complaint stated, the tenants are required to obtain financing of all their other farm needs—groceries, clothing, tools, and the like—from the landlord as well, since prior to harvesting the crop they lack cash and any source of credit other than the landlord. He, in turn, the complaint alleges, levies such high prices and rates of interest on these supplies that the tenants' crop profits are consumed each year in debt payments. Petitioners contend that they can attain a 'modest measure of economic independence' if they are able to use their 'advance subsidy payments * * * (to) form cooperatives to buy (supplies) at wholesale and reasonable prices in lieu of the excessive prices demanded by (the landlord) of * * * captive consumers with no funds to purchase elsewhere.' Thus, petitioners allege that they suffer injury in fact from the operation of the amended regulation.

The District Court, in an unreported opinion, held that the petitioners 'lack standing to maintain this action against these (respondent) governmental officials,' because the latter 'have not taken any action which directly invades any legally protected interest of the plaintiffs.' The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, one judge dissenting. 398 F.2d 398. It held that petitioners lacked standing not only because they alleged no invasion of a legally protected interest but also because petitioners 'have not shown us, nor have we found, any provision of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1965 which either expressly or impliedly gives (petitioners) standing to challenge this administrative regulation or gives the Courts authority to review such administrative action.' Id., at 402. We granted certiorari. 395 U.S. 958, 89 S.Ct. 2108, 23 L.Ed.2d 744.

Our decision in Association of Data Processing Service Organizations v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 90 S.Ct. 827, 25 L.Ed.2d 184, leads us to reverse here.

First, there is no doubt that in the context of this litigation the tenant farmers, petitioners here, have the personal stake and interest that impart the concrete adverseness required by Article III.

Second, the tenant farmers are clearly within the zone of interests protected by the Act.

Implicit in the statutory provisions and their legislative history is a congressional intent that the Secretary protect the interests of tenant farmers. Both of the relevant statutes expressly enjoin the Secretary to do so. The Food and Agriculture Act of 1965 states that '(t)he Secretary shall provide adequate safeguards to protect the interests of tenants * * *.' 79 Stat. 1196, 7 U.S.C. § 1444(d)(10) (1964 ed., Supp. IV).6 Title 7 U.S.C. § 1444(d)(13) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), as noted earlier, incorporates by reference § 8(g), as amended, 52 Stat. 35 and 205, 16 U.S.C. § 590h(g). Section 8(b) of that Act, in turn, provides that 'the Secretary shall, as far as practicable, protect the interest of tenants * * *.' 52 Stat. 32, 16 U.S.C. § 590h(b). The legislative history of the 'making a crop' provision, though sparse, similarly indicates a congressional intent to benefit the tenants.7 They are persons 'aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute' as those words are used in 5 U.S.C. § 702 (1964 ed., Supp. IV).

Third, judicial review of the Secretary's action is not precluded. The Court of Appeals rested its holding on the view that no provision of the Food and Agriculture Act of 1965 'expressly or impliedly * * * gives the Courts authority to review such administrative action.' 398 F.2d, at 402. Whether agency action is reviewable often poses difficult questions of congressional intent; and the Court must decide if Congress has in express or implied terms precluded judicial review or committed the challenged action entirely to administrative discretion.

The Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701(a) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), allows judicial review of agency action except where '(1) statutes preclude judicial review; or (2) agency action is committed to agency discretion by law.' The amended regulation here under challenge was promulgated under 16 U.S.C. § 590d(3) which authorizes the Secretary to 'prescribe such regulations, as he may deem proper to carry out the provisions of this chapter.' Plainly this provision does not expressly preclude judicial review, nor does any other provision in either the 1938 or 1965 Act. Nor does the authority to promulgate such regulations 'as he may deem proper' in § 590d(3) constitute a commitment of the task of defining 'making a crop' entirely to the discretionary judgment of the Executive Branch without the intervention of the courts. On the contrary, since the only or principal dispute relates to the meaning of the statutory term, the controversy must ultimately be resolved, not on the basis of matters within the special competence of the Secretary, but by judicial application of canons of statutory construction. See Texas Gas Transmission Corp. v. Shell Oil Co., 363 U.S. 263, 268—270, 80 S.Ct. 1122, 1126—1127, 4 L.Ed.2d 1208. 'The rule of the courts should, in particular, be viewed hospitably where * * * the question sought to be reviewed does not significantly engage the agency's expertise. '(W)here the only or principal dispute relates to the meaning of the statutory term' * * * (the controversy) presents issues on which courts, and not (administrators), are relatively more expert.' Hardin v. Kentucky Utilities Co., 390 U.S. 1, 14, 88 S.Ct. 651, 658—659, 19 L.Ed.2d 787 (Harlan, J., dissenting). Therefore the permissive term 'as he may deem proper,' by itself, is not to be read as a congressional command which precludes a judicial determination of the correct application of the governing canons.

The question then becomes whether nonreviewability can fairly be inferred. As we said in Data Processing Service, preclusion of judicial review of administrative action adjudicating private rights is not lightly to be inferred. See Leedom v. Kyne, 358 U.S. 184, 79 S.Ct. 180, 3 L.Ed.2d 210; Harmon v. Brucker, 355 U.S. 579, 78 S.Ct. 433, 2 L.Ed.2d 503; Stark v. Wickard, 321 U.S. 288, 64 S.Ct. 559, 88 L.Ed. 733; American School of Magnetic Healing v. McAnnulty, 187 U.S. 94, 23 S.Ct. 33, 47 L.Ed. 90. Indeed, judicial review of such administrative action is the rule, and nonreviewability an exception which must be demonstrated. In Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 140, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 1511, 18 L.Ed.2d 681, we held that 'judicial review of a final agency action by an aggrieved person will not be cut of unless there is persuasive reason to believe that such was the purpose of Congress.' A clear command of the statute will preclude review; and such a command of the statute may be inferred from its purpose. Switchmen's Union of North America v. National Mediation Board, 320 U.S. 297, 64 S.Ct. 95, 88 L.Ed. 61. It is, however, 'only upon a showing of 'clear and convincing evidence' of a contrary legislative intent' that the courts should restrict access to judicial review. Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, supra, 387 U.S. at 141, 87 S.Ct. at 1511. The right of judicial review is ordinarily inferred where congressional intent to protect the interests of the class of which the plaintiff is a member can be found; in such cases, unless members of the protected class may have judicial review the statutory objectives might not be realized. See the Chicago Junction Case, 264 U.S. 258, 44 S.Ct. 317, 68 L.Ed. 667; Hardin v....

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