Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.

RESPONDENT: Bruce Church, Inc.
LOCATION: 17th Judicial Circuit Green County Alabama Jury Commission

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 397 US 137 (1970)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1970
DECIDED: Mar 02, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1970 in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

Number 301, Pike against Church.

You may proceed whenever you're ready Mr. Lee?

Rex E. Lee:

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court.

Presented for decision in this case is the constitutionality of certain aspects of Arizona's Fruit and Vegetable Standardization Act.

Once again, we have a very important industry and a very important statute of an important agricultural state.

I believe that the issues which are present in this case can best be appreciated against the background on a brief discussion of the nature and purpose of Arizona's Fruit and Vegetable Standardization Act and the history of Standardization Act in general.

Mr. Justice Brandeis reminds us in Pacific States Box & Basket case which is cited in our brief that Standardization Act, that is acts which prescribe standards for certain types of containers of agricultural produced are among the earliest examples of the exercise of police power by the states.

The case that Mr. Justice Brandeis' cites as authority for that proposition is Turner versus Maryland an 1883 unanimous decision by this Court.

There is some language in Turner versus Maryland which is not cited in our brief, but which I believe definitely warrants the attention of the Court because it answers specifically one of the propositions or one of the contentions that's raised by the appellee in his brief.

Citation of Turner versus Maryland is contained in our brief, it's 107 U.S. 38 and this particular quote appears at page 57.

In that case, this Court ruled as follows: “the state may direct that a certain product while it remains in the bosom of the country and before it becomes an article of foreign commerce or commerce between the states, shall be encased, shall be encased in such a package as appears best fit it to secure the safety of the package and to identify its contents as the growth of the state.”

So that as early as 1883, this Court in the unanimous decision required that it lay within the police powers of the state, to require that the produce of that state prior to the time that it leaves the state, be encased in a certain type of package, and that that package identify the produce as the product of the state.

Involved in that particular case was a standard container known as the hogshead or Maryland tobacco, and that statute required that the hogshead identify the tobacco contained therein is Maryland tobacco.

The Arizona Fruit and Vegetable Standardization Act rests upon consideration similar to those which are approved by this Court in Turner versus Maryland.

The record in this case contains a discussion of the conditions which led up to the enactment of the Standardization Act, and they are as follows.

Prior to 1929 when the Act was adopted, it was up to each individual shipper within the state to set his own standards, both for the quality of the produce that he desired to ship, and the type of container that he desired to ship it in if he shipped it in a container at all.

Consequently, the standards adopted by some shippers were very high, and the standards adopted by other shippers were not so high.

It is abundantly borne out by this record that it is of prime importance to the success of marketing of fruits and vegetables that the shipper maintained a good reputation for shipping quality of fruit.

But the record also bears out, there's not always possible to maintain that reputation separate and apart from the reputation of the district or the state within which he produces and from which he ships his product, particularly where it's produced.

Conversely stated if a state can acquire a good reputation for a certain type of produce, that reputation will inure to the benefit not only of the state as a whole, but also each individual grower and shipper within that state.

And it is not difficult to find examples where a states have been successful in creating such reputation, such as Washington apples, Florida oranges, Arizona grapefruit and frankly we believe Arizona cantaloupes.

This then was the problem for it which the Fruit and Vegetable Standardization Act was directed.

It set minimum standards for a selected number of fruits and vegetables, now 37 within the State of Arizona and those standards have been met by all shippers where the Act so provided and it also provided that they have to meet minimum standards not only of quality, but also a pack, and that it had to be packed in standard containers.

The provisions dealing with cantaloupes as they appear in the statute today are illustrative in this regard.

As set forth in the statute and the statute is cited, the relevant provisions are cited at the outset of our brief, the cantaloupes must be mature, but not overripe.

They have to be free from mold, decays, sponginess, welding, insect damage and a variety of quality defects, but perhaps the most interesting provisions of the statute from the standpoint of this case are those provisions which deal with the individual pack and the appearance of the cantaloupes within that pack.

It's been stipulated by the parties that a prime purpose of the statute was to avoid deceptive packs or a deceptive arrangement, deceptive arrangement and deceptive pack are described similarly by the statute.

They pertain to that situation wherein the higher quality fruit is placed toward the outside of the container with the off quality fruit in the center of the container of the lesser quality fruit in the center cover, so as to materially misrepresent the quality of the entire container.

That particular provision of course can only be enforced if the container itself after it has been packed, has been inspected, and there are other provisions as to which this is also true.

Byron R. White:

Well Mr. Lee, what's -- tell me, you cited some prior case, but what would you suppose the justification is for states saying you may not ship in bulk out of the state?