Butz v. Glover Livestock Commission Company, Inc.

RESPONDENT: Glover Livestock Commission Company, Inc.
LOCATION: Allegheny County District Court

DOCKET NO.: 71-1545
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 411 US 182 (1973)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1973
DECIDED: Mar 28, 1973

Keith A. Jones - for petitioners
R. A. Eilbott, Jr. - for respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Butz v. Glover Livestock Commission Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1973 in Butz v. Glover Livestock Commission Company, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in 71-1545, Butz against Glover Livestock Commission.

Mr. Jones, you may proceed.

Keith A. Jones:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.

The issue presented is whether the court below exceeded the permissible scope of review in setting aside the Secretary’s 20-day suspension of respondent as a registrant under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.

The suspension was ordered, pursuant to the Secretary’s authority to suspend for a reasonable period any registrant committing any violation of the Act.

Respondent is a livestock broker for a market agency, who is paid a sales commission for conducting an auction of which livestock is sold on a weight basis.

Respondent has now been detected violating the Act on four separate occasions by short-weighing cattle consigned to it for sale.

On the earlier occasions, it had simply been warned against future violations.

On the fourth instance of short-weighing, which is the subject of this suit, a formal complaint against respondent was issued by the Packers and Stockyards Administration.

The case was initially tried before Department of Agriculture Hearing Examiner.

It found that respondent had intentionally short-weighed the cattle consigned to it for sale.

The Hearing Examiner recommended an appropriate cease and desist order and also a 30-day suspension.

The matter was then reviewed by a judicial officer having authority to act on behalf of the Secretary.

He found that respondent short-weighing constituted a willful violation of the Act and he issued the cease and desist order recommended by the Hearing Examiner, but he reduced respondent’s suspension to only 20 days.

Since the respondent operates its market only one day per week, this 20-day suspension will affect at most three business days.

Before discussing the disposition of this case on appeal, I think it will be helpful to describe the respondent’s brokerage function as a market agency and to explain why a market agency like the respondent might intentionally short-weigh the cattle consigned to it for sale.

The sellers at respondent’s auctions are typically livestock producers, who bring or send their cattle to the respondent for purposes of the auction.

These livestock producers rarely know the true weight of their cattle.

They typically lack the weighing facilities necessary to determine the true weight.

It is the respondent who is responsible for weighing the cattle.

The buyers at the auction frequently, perhaps usually, are representatives of meatpacking companies.

They buy the cattle at the weight given by the respondent and the cattle are then shipped to the packing plants where they are reweighed.

The sad truth of the matter is that the packers tend to patronize the auctions held by market agencies, which give them a favorable break on the weight, thus, short-weighing encourages buyers.

And this in turn stimulates an increase in sales, for the livestock producers will tend to patronize the markets which attract sufficient buyers to ensure a sale of their cattle, and since the market agencies are paid on a per head basis, they profit from this higher level of sales.

William H. Rehnquist:

They don't -- their commission isn't based on a percentage of the sale price?

Keith A. Jones:

It's based -- and I think that in the record there is a schedule of the commission, that is based in part on the weight of the cattle.

If the cattle in question weighs 400 pounds or more, I think the sales commission is $4 and some odd cents.

If it is between 300 and 399 pounds, it is a lower figure, and so forth.

William H. Rehnquist:

To that extent then it would be against their interest to short-weigh?