Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission: Background
The case of Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission was a landmark Supreme Court case which unanimously struck down a North Carolina law that required all importers of apples to label their shipments with their United States Department of Agriculture grade. In essence, the North Carolina law prohibited Apple containers from displaying state grades. The problem with this law was that the state of Washington—one of the nation’s largest apple producers—utilized their own apple standards which far exceeded those set in place by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Because of the discrepancy in standards, the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission filed a suit against makers of the North Carolina Law, alleging that the legislation violated the Commerce Clause by needlessly discriminating against Washington’s apple producers while attempting to take advantage of local North Carolina apple growers.
Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission: Synopsis of Rule of Law
In Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, the primary question was: in the absence of conflicting legislation by the United States Congress, where a state law governing matters of local concern conflicts with the Commerce Clause’s requirements of a national “common market”, then the Court is responsible for bringing about an accommodation of the competing national and local interests.
The case of Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission was filed by the state of Washington because North Carolina created a statute that required all containers of apples shipped into the state to display “no grade other than the applicable United States grade or standard.” This statute applied to all apples shipped from all states in the country, even those whose standards far exceeded the Department of agriculture’s, such as the state of Washington.
Apple growers in Washington, as a result of this law, were forced to comply only with the North Carolina statute. To comply with this statute, the growers were forced to drastically alter their packaging methods. In response, the growers challenged the statute as an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. North Carolina in Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, defended the statute, arguing that it constituted a valid exercise of its powers to protect its citizens from deception and fraud.
So, the primary question in Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission was: Did the state of North Carolina violate the Commerce Clause with the adoption of their statute?
Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission: The Ruling
The court, in Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, ruled that North Carolina’s statute did indeed violate the Commerce Clause to the United States Constitution.
Although the statute appeared neutral on the surface, the law had the effect of not only burdening the sales of Washington apples, but also discriminated against them. For instance, the local law raised the costs of doing business in the state of North Carolina for Washington growers, while leaving the costs for North Carolina growers unaffected. Additionally, by prohibiting Washington growers from marketing their apples under their own state’s more stringent grading system label, the statute held a “leveling effect” which benefited local growers.
Overall, the case of Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission presents an example of statutes that on the surface appear neutral, but after review by the Supreme Court, actually hold discriminatory intent. As such, the case of Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission also draws into question how far the court system should of in inferring discriminatory intent from neutral statutes or laws that have the effect of distinguishing between local and out-of-state interests.