Table Grape Commission Wins Court Decision

Dec 16, 2003, 00:00 ET from California Table Grape Commission

    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

SOURCE California Table Grape Commission