Florida Lime and Avocado Growers, Inc v. Jacobsen, No. 49

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWHITTAKER
PartiesFLORIDA LIME AND AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., et al., Appellants, v. JACOBSEN, Director of the Department of Agriculture of the State of California, et al
Docket NumberNo. 49
Decision Date07 March 1960

362 U.S. 73
80 S.Ct. 568
4 L.Ed.2d 568
FLORIDA LIME AND AVOCADO GROWERS, INC., et al., Appellants,

v.

JACOBSEN, Director of the Department of Agriculture of the State of California, et al.

No. 49.
Argued Dec. 9, 10, 1959.
Decided March 7, 1960.

Page 74

Mr. Isaac E. Ferguson, North Hollywood, Cal., for appellants.

Mr. John Fourt, Sacramento, Cal., for appellees.

Mr. Justice WHITTAKER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellants, engaged in the business of growing, packing, and marketing in commerce, Florida avocados, brought this action in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California to enjoin respondents, state officers of California, from enforcing § 792 of the California Agricultural Code.1

Section 792 prohibits, among other things, the importation into or sale in California of avocados containing 'less than 8 per cent of oil, by weight of the avocado excluding the skin and seed.' The complaint alleged, inter alia, that the varieties of avocados grown in Florida do not normally, or at least not uniformly, contain at maturity as much as 8% of oil by weight; that in each year since 1954 appellants have shipped in interstate commerce, in full compliance with the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 19372 and Florida Avocado Order No. 69 issued under that Act by the Secretary of Agriculture on June 11, 1954, Florida avocados into the State of California and have attempted to sell them there; that

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appellees, or their agents, have consistently barred the sale of appellants' avocados in California for failure uniformly to contain not less than 8% of oil by weight, resulting in denial to appellants of access to the California market, and forcing reshipment of the avocados to and their sale in other States, to the injury of appellants, all in violation of the Commerce and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution, art. 1, § 8, cl. 3; Amend. 14, as well as of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 and Florida Avocado Order No. 69 issued thereunder.

Inasmuch as the complaint alleged federal unconstitutionality of the California statute, appellants requested the convening of, and there was convened, a three-judge District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2281, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2281, to hear the case. After hearing, the court concluded that, because appellants had not contested the validity of § 792 nor sought abatement of appellees, condemnation of the avocados in the California state courts, the case presented 'no more than a mere prospect of interference posed by the bare existence of the law in question,' and that it had 'no authority to take jurisdiction (and was) left with no course other than to dismiss the action,' which it did. D.C., 169 F.Supp. 774, 776. Appellants brought the case here on direct appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1253, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1253, and we postponed the question of our jurisdiction to the hearing on the merits. 360 U.S. 915, 79 S.Ct. 1432, 3 L.Ed.2d 1532.

The first and principal question presented is whether this action is one required by § 2281 to be heard by a District Court of three judges and, hence, whether we have jurisdiction of this direct appeal under § 1253.

Section 2281 provides3 that an injunction restraining the enforcement of a state statute may not be granted

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upon the ground of unconstitutionality of such statute 'unless the application therefor is heard and determined by a district court of three judges * * *,' and § 1253 provides4 that any order, granting or denying an injunction in any civil action required by any Act of Congress to be heard and determined by a District Court of three judges, may be appealed directly to this Court.

Appellees concede that if the complaint had attacked § 792 solely on the ground of conflict with the United States Constitution, the action would have been one required by § 2281 to be heard and determined by a District Court of three judges. But appellees contend that because the complaint also attacks § 792 on the ground of conflict with the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 and the Secretary's Florida Avocado Order No. 69, it is possible that the action could be determined on the statutory rather than the constitutional ground, and, therefore, the action was not required to be heard by a District Court of three judges under § 2281 and, hence, a direct appeal does not lie to this Court under § 1253.

Section 2281 seems rather plainly to indicate a congressional intention to require an application for an injunction to be heard and determined by a court of three

Page 77

judges in any case in which the injunction may be granted on grounds of federal unconstitutionality. The reason for this is quite clear. The impetus behind the first three-judge court statute was the decision in Ex parte Young, 1908, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714, in which it was held that a federal court could enjoin a state officer from enforcing a state statute alleged to be unconstitutional, despite the prohibition of the Eleventh Amendment concerning suits against a State. Debate was immediately launched in the Senate with regard to cushioning the impact of the Young case, the principal concern being with the power thus activated in one federal judge to enjoin the operation or enforcement of state legislation on grounds of federal unconstitutionality.5

Page 78

The result of the debates on this subject was passage of a three-judge-court statute in 1910, 36 Stat. 557, which was codified as § 266 of the Judicial Code, 36 Stat. 1162.6 This statute prohibited the granting of an interlocutory injunction against a state statute upon grounds of federal unconstitutionality unless the application for injunction was heard and determined by a court of three judges.

Page 79

The statute also contained its own provision for direct appeal to this Court from an order granting or denying an interlocutory injunction. The objective of § 266 was clearly articulated by Mr. Chief Justice Taft in Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Louisiana Public Service Commission, 260 U.S. 212, 43 S.Ct. 75, 67 L.Ed. 217:

'The legislation was enacted for the manifest purpose of taking away the power of a single United States Judge, whether District Judge, Circuit Judge, or Circuit Justice holding a District Court of the United States, to issue an interlocutory injunction against the execution of a state statute by a state officer or of an order of an administrative board of the state pursuant to a state statute, on the ground of the federal unconstitutionality of the statute. Pending the application for an interlocutory injunction, a single judge may grant a restraining order to be in force until the hearing of the application, but thereafter, so far as enjoining the state officers, his power is exhausted. The wording of the section leaves no doubt that Congress was by provisions ex industria seeking to make interference by interlocutory injunction from a federal court with the enforcement of state legislation regularly enacted and in course of execution, a matter of the adequate hearing and the full deliberation which the presence of three judges, one of whom should be a Circuit Justice or Judge, was likely to secure. It was to prevent the improvident granting of such injunctions by a single judge, and the possible unnecessary conflict between federal and state authority always to be deprecated.' 260 U.S. at page 216, 43 S.Ct. at page 76.

In 1925, § 266 was amended to require a three-judge court for issuance of a permanent as well as an interlocutory injunction, and § 238 of the Judicial Code (a broad statute governing direct appeals to this Court from District

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Courts) was amended, so far as here pertinent, to incorporate the provision for direct appeals to this Court from the orders of three-judge courts granting or denying an injunction in a § 266 case. 43 Stat. 938. Such is the present scheme of §§ 2281 and 1253.

With this background, it seems entirely clear that the central concern of Congress in 1910 was to prevent one federal judge from granting an interlocutory injunction against state legislation on grounds of federal unconstitutionality. And the 1925 amendment requiring a court of three judges for issuance of a permanent as well as an interlocutory injunction 'was designed to end the anomalous situation in which a single judge might reconsider and decide questions already passed upon by three judges on the application for an interlocutory injunction.' Stratton v. St. Louis Southwestern R. Co., 282 U.S. 10, 14, 51 S.Ct. 8, 10, 75 L.Ed. 135. Section 2281, read in the light of this background, seems clearly to require that when, in any action to enjoin enforcement of a state statute, the injunctive decree may issue on the ground of federal unconstitutionality of the state statute, the convening of a three-judge court is necessary; and the joining in the complaint of a nonconstitutional attack along with the constitutional one does not dispense with the necessity to convene such a court. To hold to the contrary would be to permit one federal district judge to enjoin enforcement of a state statute on the ground of federal unconstitutionality whenever a nonconstitutional ground of attack was also alleged, and this might well defeat the purpose of § 2281.

Cases in this Court since Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Garrett, 1913, 231 U.S. 298, 34 S.Ct. 48, 58 L.Ed. 229, have consistently adhered to the view that, in an injunction action challenging a state statute on substantial federal constitutional grounds, a three-judge court is required to be convened and has just as we have on a direct appeal from its action—jurisdiction over all claims raised against the

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statute.7 These cases represent an unmistakable recognition of the congressional policy to provide for a three-judge court whenever a state statute is...

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134 practice notes
  • Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, Financial Responsibility Division, State of Utah, No. 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1962
    ...75 L.Ed. 35; Ex parte Northern Pac. R. Co., 280 U.S. 142, 50 S.Ct. 70, 74 L.Ed. 233. 5. Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (by implication); Case v. Bowles, 327 U.S. 92, 66 S.Ct. 438, 90 L.Ed. 552; Ex parte Buder, 271 U.S. 461, 46 S.Ct......
  • Mahaley v. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Civ. A. No. C 71-251
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • February 22, 1973
    ...Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 90, 91 S.Ct. 674, 27 L.Ed.2d 701 (Stewart concurring); Florida Lime and Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 84, 85, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (1960). Moreover, this case could have been decided in a more orderly fashion without dissolution. The p......
  • Rosado v. Wyman, No. 711
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 16, 1969
    ...only on the statutory ground, a situation not present in that case or here. Indeed, in Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80-81, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (1960), the Court said that a properly convened three-judge court has jurisdiction "over all claims" raise......
  • Law Students Civil Rights Research Coun., Inc. v. Wadmond, 68 Civ. 2917
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 17, 1969
    ...affecting the validity of the orders also attacked on constitutional grounds. In Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80-81, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (1960), the Court restated the Garrett holding in an approving dictum, while deciding that the joinder of a nonc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
134 cases
  • Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, Financial Responsibility Division, State of Utah, No. 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1962
    ...75 L.Ed. 35; Ex parte Northern Pac. R. Co., 280 U.S. 142, 50 S.Ct. 70, 74 L.Ed. 233. 5. Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (by implication); Case v. Bowles, 327 U.S. 92, 66 S.Ct. 438, 90 L.Ed. 552; Ex parte Buder, 271 U.S. 461, 46 S.Ct......
  • Mahaley v. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Civ. A. No. C 71-251
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • February 22, 1973
    ...Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 90, 91 S.Ct. 674, 27 L.Ed.2d 701 (Stewart concurring); Florida Lime and Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 84, 85, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (1960). Moreover, this case could have been decided in a more orderly fashion without dissolution. The p......
  • Rosado v. Wyman, No. 711
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 16, 1969
    ...only on the statutory ground, a situation not present in that case or here. Indeed, in Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80-81, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (1960), the Court said that a properly convened three-judge court has jurisdiction "over all claims" raise......
  • Law Students Civil Rights Research Coun., Inc. v. Wadmond, 68 Civ. 2917
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 17, 1969
    ...affecting the validity of the orders also attacked on constitutional grounds. In Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80-81, 80 S.Ct. 568, 4 L.Ed.2d 568 (1960), the Court restated the Garrett holding in an approving dictum, while deciding that the joinder of a nonc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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