FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The California Table Grape Commission won an important court ruling this week, setting the stage for full litigation on the merits of the case brought against the commission by two dissenting shippers. The case against the commission began in 1996 and centers around the claim by two shippers that the commission's advertising -- which promotes greater market access and demand for California table grapes -- violates their freedom of speech. In 2000, their complaint was dismissed when the district court found the commission's advertising program fully constitutional and determined that further litigation was not warranted. In January 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. The court of appeals concluded that an intervening decision by the United States Supreme Court prevented the district court from peremptorily dismissing the case. Following the Ninth Circuit's ruling, the plaintiffs argued that the commission had been declared unconstitutional, and asked the district court to grant judgment in their favor, without trial proceedings. That argument has now been rejected by the district court. As United States District Judge Wanger ruled, "The Appeals Court did not grant judgment to the Plaintiffs nor did it remand the case to the district court with instructions to do so." "The plaintiffs claimed in court and in the press that the Ninth Circuit decision last January had effectively ended the case, in their favor," explained Kathleen Nave, the commission's president. "But this week the district court unambiguously demonstrated that the plaintiffs were wrong. As this decision makes clear, all the Ninth Circuit did was to return the case to the trial court for litigation. Nothing about the commission or its work has been found unconstitutional, and none of the commission's many defenses have been eliminated." Seth Waxman, former Solicitor General of the United States, argued the case for the commission before Judge Wanger. "I greatly look forward to presenting the commission's case," Mr. Waxman said. "The Table Grape Commission is a worthy institution and its work is vital to the industry and to the economy of the state of California." No schedule has yet been set for litigation in district court at this point. "This lawsuit -- by two of the state's 600 table grape growers -- has been going on since 1996," said Nave. "Unfortunately, it isn't going to be over for a while. In the meantime, we will continue to do our job to promote California table grapes around the world." The California Table Grape Commission is the promotional arm of the state's fresh grape industry and its more than 600 farmers. The commission promotes fresh California grapes in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide.
SOURCE California Table Grape Commission