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Mulford v. Smith


Justice Roberts, who had written the opinion striking down the first Agricultural Adjustment Act, United States v. Butler (1936), also wrote the opinion here. His change in attitude is a vivid illustration of the important role he played as a swing vote on the Court.

James H. Mulford was a tobacco producer who had been fined under the terms of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, a piece of legislation that was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal agenda for combatting the Great Depression. Under the terms of the act, the federal government set a production quota for each tobacco grower. If a grower exceeded this amount, the tobacco auction warehouseman--in this case, Nat Smith--was obliged to penalize the grower. The purpose of this scheme was to prevent tobacco growers from "dumping" their product and disordering the market, thus adding to the economic chaos that held sway throughout the country.

Mulford sued in the District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, challenging the federal act. After the district court upheld the penalty levied against him, Mulford took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Mulford v. Smith - Significance, Justice Roberts Reverses Himself, Swing Vote