Fruit growers not protected from compelled advertising
WASHINGTON D.C.–The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that First Amendment protection against compelled speech does not apply to agriculture producers required by federal law to underwrite generic product advertising.
The majority in the 5-4 decision stated other cases of compelled speech were “clearly inapplicable to the regulatory scheme at issue here.”
Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said none of the advertising promoted a particular message other than encouraging consumers to buy California fruit. Therefore underwriting “cannot be said to engender any crisis of conscience,” he said.
In dissent Justice David Souter said past protection of commercial speech under the First Amendment justifies protecting those who object to subsidizing it.
The case was brought by a group of California nectarine, peach and plum producers who argued they would rather spend their money advertising their own products instead of subsidizing their competitors.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) said freedom of speech includes a right not to be compelled to speak or to financially support speech.
The high court said past decisions protecting people from paying union dues when they do not support the union’s use of the money did not apply because the fruit producers could not legitimately claim to disagree with the content of the generic advertising. (Glickman v. Wileman Brothers & Elliot Inc.)