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    Fed. Judge Rules Grape Commission Constitutional

    The decision calls commission constitutional, thereby giving it immunity from challenge.

    The law establishing the Irvine-based California Table Grape Commission (CTGC) and authorizing its programs was ruled constitutional by a Federal District Court.

    In a 194-page decision, United States District Court Judge Oliver Wanger rejected a First Amendment challenge to the commission's programs, concluding that the speech of the commission [and] a creation of the state legislature, is that of the government and therefore immune from constitutional challenge.
     
    In addition, Judge Wanger reviewed the wide range of research, market access, issue management and education programs conducted by the commission and concluded that the commission's advertising program, which the plaintiffs alleged was unconstitutional, is part of the commission's broader efforts to increase demand for California table grapes and is therefore constitutional.

    "This is an important victory for California's fresh grape industry," said CTGC president Kathleen Nave. "Since 1967, the clear majority of California's fresh grape farmers have voted every five years to continue funding the commission. This decision affirms their right to work together for the benefit of not just the entire industry but the entire state of California."
     
    The commission is funded with assessments on each box of commercially produced grapes shipped in California. The ruling in favor of the commission is a critical decision in litigation that began in the fall of 1996.

    "Legally, the plaintiffs now have the right to appeal this decision and continue the litigation," said commission legal counsel Seth Waxman. "As a practical matter, however, this is a comprehensive and well-reasoned decision that rules in the commission's favor on multiple grounds."

    CTGC was created by the California legislature in 1967 to increase worldwide demand for fresh California grapes through a variety of research and promotional programs.

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