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COCHRAN v. VENEMEAN

March 24, 2003

JOSEPH P. COCHRAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
ANN VENEMEAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS, AND FRED LOVELL, ET AL. INTERVENOR DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Jones, III., United States District Judge.

OPINION

This is a declaratory judgment action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and 2202 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 57 by Plaintiffs Joseph S. Cochran and Brenda S. Cochran ("Plaintiffs" or "the Cochrans"). Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment ruling that the Dairy Promotion and Research Program ("the Dairy Program") as set forth in Title I, Subtitle B of the Dairy Promotion Stabilization Act of 1983 ("the Stabilization Act" or "the Act"), Pub. L. 98-180, 97 Stat. 1128, 7 U.S.C. § 4505 (g) is an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech. Plaintiffs also seek an injunction against Ann Veneman, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture ("the Secretary") and the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board ("the Dairy Board") (together, "the Governmental Defendants"), enjoining the continued collection of the dairy checkoff assessment created pursuant to the Act.

Some of the advertisements funded by assessments collected pursuant to the provisions of the Stabilization Act currently under attack by Plaintiffs are part of the Milk Mustache/got milk?® campaign. The question presented to the Court, phrased in an equally ungrammatical fashion, may be reduced to: "Got Advertising Money for Milk?".

For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the Dairy Program and resulting diary checkoff assessment are not unconstitutional. Our holding will allow the American public to continue to view advertisements containing white mustachioed celebrities and other pop culture icons depicting the salutary effects of milk.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

Plaintiffs are dairy producers engaged in the production of milk for commercial use on a dairy firm located in Pennsylvania. They initiated this action by filing a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Governmental Defendants on April 2, 2002. The case was assigned to the Honorable James F. McClure Jr.

On June 6, 2002, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment. Thereafter, on June 14, 2002, the Governmental Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment.

By Order issued August 6, 2002, this matter was transferred to the undersigned.

On January 13, 2003, this Court granted the Petition to Intervene brought by Fred Lovell, Lee Greenwalt, Jackie Root, Earnest Norman, Stephen Marshall, Cecil Moyer, and James Vandblarcom ("the Intervening Parties" or "the Intervenors") on June 14, 2002. The Intervening Parties are dairy producers who, unlike Plaintiffs, support the dairy checkoff provision within the Act and believe it to be constitutional in all respects.

On January 21, 2003, the Intervening Parties filed their own motion for summary judgment.

Each of the pending motions has been fully briefed by the parties. Oral argument was held on March 19, 2003. This matter is now ripe for disposition.

STANDARD OF REVIEW:

Summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and. . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."*fn1 F.R.C.P. 56(c); see also Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing "there is no genuine issue for trial." Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 357 (3d Cir. 1992). Summary judgment should not be granted when there is a disagreement about the facts or the proper inferences which a fact finder could draw from them. Peterson v. Lehigh Valley Dist. Council, 676 F.2d 81, 84 (3d Cir. 1982).

Initially, the moving party has a burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This burden may be met by the moving party pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.

Rule 56 provides that, where such a motion is made and properly supported, the non-moving party must then show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The United States Supreme Court has commented that this requirement is tantamount to the non-moving party making a sufficient showing as to the essential elements of their case that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

It is important to note that "the non-moving party cannot rely upon conclusory allegations in its pleadings or in memoranda and briefs to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 511 (3d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). However, all inferences "should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be ...


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