Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Comm'n
432 U.S. 333 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333 (1977)

Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission

No. 76-63

Argued February 22, 1977

Decided June 20, 1977

432 U.S. 333


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 appellee's 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 containers 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.


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. Pp. 432 U. S. 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. 432 U. S. 343-344.

Page 432 U. S. 334

(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. 432 U. S. 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. 432 U. S. 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. Pp. 432 U. S. 346-348.

3. The North Carolina statute violates the Commerce Clause by burdening and discriminating against the interstate sale of Washington apples. Pp. 432 U. S. 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. 432 U. S. 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. 432 U. S. 351-352.

Page 432 U. S. 335

(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. 432 U. S. 352-354.

(d) Nondiscriminatory alternatives to the outright ban of Washington State grades are readily available. P. 432 U. S. 354.

408 F.Supp. 857, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except REHNQUIST, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Primary Holding

Laws should be considered discriminatory under the Commerce Clause if they have discriminatory effects, even if they are facially neutral.


Packages of apples that were sold in North Carolina were required to bear only the USDA grade of quality or no grade at all. Washington had developed a standard of grading apples that was nationally recognized as being superior to the USDA standard. It had expended significant costs and effort on developing this more stringent system. Washington argued that the North Carolina regulation should be struck down as unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause. The lower court granted an injunction against enforcing it.



  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • John Paul Stevens

Even though the law appears to apply equally to sellers inside and outside the state, it discriminates against Washington sellers on a practical basis. It increases the cost of doing business in North Carolina for Washington sellers without increasing the costs for North Carolina sellers. It also removes the competitive advantages that Washington had created for itself by implementing a more demanding and expensive grading system. The regulation prevented consumers from telling the difference in quality between inferior in-state apples and superior Washington apples. This required the state to justify the burden imposed by the law by showing the local benefit that it provided and proving that non-discriminatory alternatives were unavailable. There would be less discriminatory ways to achieve the goal of avoiding consumer deception.


  • William Hubbs Rehnquist (Author)

Case Commentary

In some situations, the Supreme Court will strike down a law that appears to have a discriminatory intent, even if it appears to be neutral. Inferences can be drawn from a discriminatory effect, although courts risk applying standards unevenly when choosing whether to draw them.

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