Brief Fact Summary. The Respondents, Wileman Brothers & Elliot, Inc. (Respondents), growers of California tree fruits, brought suit to challenge assessments on advertisements made by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Assessments for costs associated with advertising for a group of individuals are matters of economic policy and not an infringement on one’s First Amendment constitutional rights.
Issue. The question before the court is whether the requirement that Respondents, as farmers, are required to participate in generic advertising or whether the requirement abridges their choice not to participate, in violation of the First Amendment constitutional rights.
The court held that the advertising assessments were a question of economic policy and not one of First Amendment constitutional rights. Particularly, the rights of the farmers were not abrogated, no restraint was placed on any producer from expressing himself, nor was any producer required to endorse any particular political view. Thus, requiring Respondents to pay advertising assessments was not contrary to their rights.
Dissent. Justice David Souter (J. Souter) dissented, noting he would affirm the decision of the Ninth Circuit, as commercial speech is not subject to any sort of exclusion from First Amendment constitutional protection and the requirement that farmers engage therein is a violation of their rights.
Discussion. The important concept to grasp in this case is the fact that, while the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) does protect members of a compulsory association from being forced to endorse ideological views apart from their own, it does not protect those same members from having to pay assessments for services from which they will benefit.