Finding that “payers of taxes and fees may be required to subsidize [certain government] speech, even when they disagree with it,” the Supreme Court today rejects a challenge to the California Table Grape Commission’s generic promotion of the state’s table grapes.  Some grape growers and shippers, who claim their grapes are superior to grapes in general, objected that having to pay assessments for the advertising violated their free speech rights under the state Constitution.

The court’s unanimous opinion in Delano Farms Company v. California Table Grape Commission by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye concludes that the advertising is government (as opposed to private) speech, that the assessment scheme is thus accorded substantial deference, and that the scheme is valid under the deferential standard of review.  The court nonetheless cautions that “courts must take care in distinguishing government speech from private speech, and apply the government speech doctrine in a manner mindful of its potential impact on protected free speech interests.”

The court affirms the Fifth District Court of Appeal.  The court’s opinion complements the Ninth Circuit’s decision under the federal Constitution upholding the same assessment scheme.  (Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Com’n (9th Cir. 2009) 586 F.3d 1219, cert. denied (2010) 562 U.S. 837.)