Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission

Citation432 U.S. 333,97 S.Ct. 2434,53 L.Ed.2d 383
Decision Date20 June 1977
Docket NumberNo. 76-63,76-63
PartiesJames B. HUNT, Jr., Governor of the State of North Carolina, et al., Appellants, v. WASHINGTON STATE APPLE ADVERTISING COMMISSION
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Appellee, a statutory agency for the promotion and protection of the Washington State apple industry and composed of 13 state growers and dealers chosen from electoral districts by their fellow growers and dealers, all of whom by mandatory assessments finance appellees operations, brought this suit challenging the constitutionality of a North Carolina statute requiring that all apples sold or shipped into North Carolina in closed containers be identified by no grade on the container other than the applicable federal grade or a designation that the apples are not graded. A three-judge District Court granted the requested injunctive and declaratory relief, holding that appellee had standing to challenge the statute, that the $10,000 jurisdictional amount of 28 U.S.C. § 1331 was satisfied, and that the challenged statute unconstitutionally discriminated against commerce insofar as it affected the interstate shipment of Washington apples, Held:

1. Appellee has standing to bring this action in a representational capacity. Pp. 341-345.

(a) An association has standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when (1) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation in the lawsuit of each of the individual members. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343. Pp. 342-343.

(b) The prerequisites to associational standing described in Warth are clearly present here: (1) At the risk of otherwise losing North Carolina accounts, some Washington apple growers and dealers had (at a per-container cost of 5¢ to 15¢) obliterated Washington State grades from the large volume of North Carolina-bound containers; and they had stopped using preprinted containers, thus diminishing the efficiency of their marketing operations; (2) appellee's attempt to remedy these injuries is central to its purpose of protecting and enhancing the Washington apple market; and (3) neither appellee's constitutional claim nor the relief requested requires individualized proof. Pp. 343-344.

(c) Though appellee is a state agency, it is not on that account precluded from asserting the claims of the State's apple growers and dealers since for all practical purposes appellee performs the functions of a traditional trade association. While the apple growers are not "members" of appellee in the traditional trade association sense, they possess all the indicia of organization membership (viz., electing the members, being the only ones to serve on the Commission, and financing its activities), and it is of no consequence that membership assessments are mandatory. Pp. 344-345.

(d) Appellee's own interests may be adversely affected by the outcome of this litigation, since the annual assessments that are used to support its activities and which are tied to the production of Washington apples could be reduced if the market for those apples declines as a result of the North Carolina statute. P. 345.

2. The requirements of § 1331 are satisfied. Since appellee has standing to litigate its constituents' claims, it may rely on them to meet the requisite amount of $10,000 in controversy. And it does not appear "to a legal certainty" that the claims of at least some of the individual growers and dealers will not come to that amount in view of the substantial annual sales volume of Washington apples in North Carolina (over $2 million) and the continuing nature of the statute's interference with the Washington apple industry, coupled with the evidence in the record that growers and dealers have suffered and will continue to suffer losses of various types from the operation of the challenged statute. St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 58 S.Ct. 586, 82 L.Ed. 845. Pp. 346-348.

3. The North Carolina statute violates the Commerce Clause by burdening and discriminating against the interstate sale of Washington apples. Pp. 348-354.

(a) The statute raises the costs of doing business in the North Carolina market for Washington growers and dealers while leaving unaffected their North Carolina counterparts, who were still free to market apples under the federal grade or none at all. Pp. 350-351.

(b) The statute strips the Washington apple industry of the competitive and economic advantages it has earned for itself by an expensive, stringent mandatory state inspection and grading system that exceeds federal requirements. By requiring Washington apples to be sold under the inferior grades of their federal counterparts, the North Carolina statute offers the North Carolina apple industry the very sort of protection against out-of-state competition that the Commerce Clause was designed to prohibit. Pp. 351-352.

(c) Even if the statute was not intended to be discriminatory and was enacted for the declared purpose of protecting consumers from deception and fraud because of the multiplicity of state grades, the statute does remarkably little to further that goal, at least with respect to Washington apples and grades, for it permits marketing of apples in closed containers under no grades at all and does nothing to purify the flow of information at the retail level. Moreover, Washington grades could not have led to the type of deception at which the statute was assertedly aimed, since those grades equal or surpass the comparable federal standards. Pp. 352-354.

(d) Nondiscriminatory alternatives to the outright ban of Washington State grades are readily available. Pp. 354. 408 F.Supp. 857, affirmed.

John R. Jordan, Jr., Raleigh, N. C., for appellants.

Slade Gorton, Atty. Gen., Olympia, Wash., for appellee.

Mr. Chief Justice BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1973, North Carolina enacted a statute which required, inter alia, all closed containers of apples sold, offered for sale, or shipped into the State to bear "no grade other than the applicable U.S. grade or standard." N.C.Gen.Stat. § 106-189.1 (1973). In an action brought by the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, a three-judge Federal District Court invalidated the statute insofar as it prohibited the display of Washington State apple grades on the ground that it unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce.

The specific questions presented on appeal are (a) whether the Commission had standing to bring this action; (b) if so, whether it satisfied the jurisdictional-amount requirement of 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 1 and (c) whether the challenged North Carolina statute constitutes an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.


Washington State is the Nation's largest producer of apples, its crops accounting for approximately 30% of all apples grown domestically and nearly half of all apples shipped in closed containers in interstate commerce. As might be expected, the production and sale of apples on this scale is a multimillion dollar enterprise which plays a significant role in Washington's economy. Because of the importance of the apple industry to the State, its legislature has undertaken to protect and enhance the reputation of Washington apples by establishing a stringent, mandatory inspection program, administered by the State's Department of Agriculture, which requires all apples shipped in interstate commerce to be tested under strict quality standards and graded accordingly. In all cases, the Washington State grades, which have gained substantial acceptance in the trade, are the equivalent of, or superior to, the comparable grades and standards adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Compliance with the Washington inspection scheme costs the State's growers approximately $1 million each year.

In addition to the inspection program, the state legislature has sought to enhance the market for Washington apples through the creation of a state agency, the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, charged with the statutory duty of promoting and protecting the State's apple industry. The Commission itself is composed of 13 Washington apple growers and dealers who are nominated and elected within electoral districts by their fellow growers and dealers. Wash.Rev.Code §§ 15.24.020, 15.24.030 (1974). Among its activities are the promotion of Washington apples in both domestic and foreign markets through advertising, market research and analysis, and public education, as well as scientific research into the uses, development, and improvement of apples. Its activities are financed entirely by assessments levied upon the apple industry, § 15.24.100; in the year during which this litigation began, these assessments totaled approximately $1.75 million. The assessments, while initially fixed by statute, can be increased only upon the majority vote of the apple growers themselves. § 15.24.090.

In 1972, the North Carolina Board of Agriculture adopted an administrative regulation, unique in the 50 States, which in effect required all closed containers of apples shipped into or sold in the State to display either the applicable USDA grade or none at all. State grades were expressly prohibited. 2 In addition to its obvious consequence prohibiting the display of Washington State apple grades on containers of apples shipped into North Carolina, the regulation presented the Washington apply industry with a marketing problem of potentially nationwide significance. Washington apple growers annually ship in commerce approximately 40 million closed containers of apples, nearly 500,000 of which eventually find their way into North Carolina, stamped with the applicable Washington State variety and grade. It is the...

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