Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Hettinga v. United States

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20077
Nos. No. 07-5403, (D.C. Cir., 04/03/2009)

The D.C. Circuit reversed a lower court decision dismissing dairy farmers' action challenging the constitutionality of two amendments to the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act. The dairy farmers alleged that the amendments, which subjected certain large producer-handlers of milk to contribution requirements applicable to milk handlers, were invalid as a bill of attainder and a violation of equal protection and due process. The lower court dismissed the case because the farmers failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. However, exhaustion was neither jurisdictionally nor prudentially required. The plain text of the exhaustion requirement in the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act does not apply to constitutional challenges to the Act itself, as distinct from challenges to regulatory orders and attendant obligations. Because the farmers' objections do not involve an alleged defect in a marketing order and the Secretary of Agriculture lacks the power to provide a remedy, requiring exhaustion as a prudential matter would not protect administrative agency authority or advance judicial efficiency.