MILLER v. SCHOENE
Miller owned a large stand of ornamental red cedar trees on his property in Shenandoah County, Virginia. Schoene, the Virginia State Entomologist, ordered Miller to cut down his red cedar trees, under the Cedar Rust Act of Virginia. Miller's property was near an apple orchard, and Virginia did not want the cedar rust plant disease to spread from Miller's trees to the apple orchard. Miller challenged the statute in Shenandoah County Circuit Court, alleging that the statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Circuit Court upheld the tree removal order. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed the decision.
Did Virginia's Cedar Rust Act violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
No. In a unanimous decision, the Court upheld Virginia's statute and the order to remove Miller's cedar trees. In an opinion written by Justice Harlan F. Stone, the Court recognized Virginia's interest in preventing cedar rust from damaging apple orchards, since apple growing was a "principal agricultural pursuit" in Virginia. While the destruction of Miller's trees would be a taking of his property, Virginia "[did] not exceed its constitutional powers by deciding upon the destruction of one class of property in order to save another which, in the judgment of the legislature, is of greater value to the public." The Virginia Legislature, through the Cedar Rust Act, had decided that the preservation of apple trees – an agricultural product -- was of greater importance than the preservation of ornamental red cedar trees. Therefore, the statute was a legitimate exercise of Virginia's power.