(UPDATED COVERAGE, Oct. 6) The U.S. Supreme Court has ended 14 years of legal maneuvering by refusing to hear an appeal from plaintiffs on the constitutional status of the California Table Grape Commission.


“The vast majority of table grape grower-shippers have continued to be actively involved with the commission, have continued paying their assessments to the commission and did not participate in the lawsuit,” Kathleen Nave, president of the commis-sion, said. “They deserve a lot of credit. Fourteen years is a long time.”

The California Legislature established the commission in 1967. A handful of growers led by Delano Farms Co., Delano, Calif., filed the suit in 1996, claiming the law creating the Table Grape Commission violated the growers’ First Amendment rights to free speech. The group argued that mandatory assessments to pay for advertising is unconstitutional.

Nave credits a federal district judge’s 2008 ruling against the plaintiff’s case for establishing the legal foundation, which resulted in the commission’s ultimate victory.

“The decision … was a very, very detailed, very lengthy decision that outlined the ways in which the commission is constitutional and noted that the speech of the commission is the speech of the government,” she said.

Government “speech” is immune from constitutional challenge.

The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling twice.

The high court’s decision reflects a similar finding two years ago in a case involving growers of California nectarines, peaches and plums.