Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul

PETITIONER: Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc.
LOCATION: Clauson's Inn

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 373 US 132 (1963)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1963
DECIDED: May 13, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1963 in Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul

Isaac E. Ferguson:

May it please Your Honors.

This case is here for the second time on direct appeal from the judgment of a three-judge District Court.

The previous appeal was from a judgment dismissing appellants’ complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

That judgment was reversed by this Court because it was remanded to the District Court to try the case on the merits for other proceedings not inconsistent with the opinion of this Court.

The present appeal is from the judgment after trial on the merits, denying the relief prayed in appellants’ complaint.

I remind the Court that the appellants are growers, handlers of avocados produced in South Florida, and that the avocados marketed by appellants are sold without restriction in all states of the union except California, the only other state in which avocados are produced commercially.

I remind the Court further that all of the avocados grown in the Florida production area are marketed in interstate commerce or directly affect interstate commerce.

And that since June 11, 1954, all marketing of the Florida avocados has been governed by a marketing order made by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States pursuant to the authority vested in him by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937.

The essence of the marketing order is the establishment and enforcement of standards of maturity and quality as the condition precedent to the marketing of the Florida avocados.

The complaint of the appellants is that notwithstanding compliance with the maturity and quality regulations imposed under the federal marketing order, an near embargo against the marketing of the Florida avocados in California is enforced by prohibiting sale of the avocados in that state, unless they contained 8% or more of oil or fat as required by Section 792 of the Agricultural Code of California.


Isaac E. Ferguson:

Oh, yes Your Honor.

Yes, indeed.

It follows the complaint in the first volume and begins -- Page 50.

This 8% oil requirement is foreign to the nature of the avocados grown in Florida, also foreign to the maturity and quality regulations under the federal marketing order.

Such embargo, appellants contend, flaunts the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, at the same time thwarts and undermines the effectiveness of the regulation of the marketing of this fruit under the federal law.

On the previous appeal in this case, it was held by this Court, first, that a three-judge District Court was properly convened to hear the case since the complaint seeks to enjoin enforcement of a state statute in application to the marketing of the avocados handled by appellants on substantial grounds of federal unconstitutionality.

Second, the direct appeal to this Court from the judgment of the District Court was proper notwithstanding the joinder of a claim that enforcement of the state statute in the manner complained of is a violation of an Act of Congress regulating interstate commerce.

Third, that it was not incumbent upon appellants prior to consideration of their complaint in accord of the United States to apply for the desired relief in an action in the California Courts.

Fourth, that appellants are entitled to have determined in this federal court action on the merits the rights asserted under the Constitution of the United States, also under the Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 enacted by Congress pursuant to the authority granted by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

It said in the opinion of the District Court that but for the direction of this Court to hear and adjudicase -- adjudicate the case on the merits, the District Court might either have declined to exercise equitable jurisdiction in the case or it might have withheld exercise of jurisdiction to await state court adjudication of the controversy.

I respectfully submit that this statement of the District Court is quite immaterial.

That it is of no moment how the District Court might otherwise have disposed of the case if not constrained by the decisions of this Court.

I submit likewise that the reargument by appellees in the form of cross-appeal of issues decided by this Court on the former appeal calls for no consideration on the present appeal.

On the merits, I submit, the record is devoid of any support for the judgment of the District Court.

The essential elements of appellants’ case are virtually uncontested.

The most striking circumstance of this case is that nowhere in the evidence is there the least suggestion of fault in the Florida avocados.

No suggestion of unhealtfulness, unpalatability, or inferiority of quality in any respect.

The challenged California statute says in effect that all avocados with less than 8% of oil are immature, but no witness says that this is true of the avocados grown in Florida which come to market with less than 8% of oil content.

On the other hand, it is affirmatively established by the extensive and an impugned scientific research that some varieties of Florida avocados attain maturity and are ready to be marketed with oil content as low as 2% or 3%, while other varieties which may ultimately attain 8% oil content, do so only in minor volume and late in the marketing season for these avocados and even then without the requisite consistency for affecting -- effective marketing in face of the 8% oil barrier.