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SCOTUS: raisin seizure requires compensation

It’s raining raisin rights! The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1, as a Cato amicus brief had urged, that the Horne family of California have a Fifth Amendment right to compensation for the government’s seizure of half their raisin crop as part of an agricultural marketing order program. Only Justice Sotomayor dissented. There was also a 5-3 split on the question of how compensation should be calculated, with the majority joining Chief Justice Roberts in holding that the Department of Agriculture was bound by its own estimate of the value of the raisins taken. Earlier on Horne v. USDA here.

Robert Thomas at Inverse Condemnation rounds up reactions. Commentary: Ilya Shapiro, Roger Pilon (and earlier on the Magna Carta angle), and Trevor Burrus/Forbes (good news: Court strikes down really awful New Deal farm program. Bad news: it took 80 years), all from Cato; Iain Murray, Ilya Somin. And thanks to Instapundit guestblogger Virginia Postrel for linking to our past coverage.

Supreme Court hears raisin case again

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Horne v. USDA, with many Justices skeptical of the government’s position that it can seize nearly half of a family’s raisin crop under a USDA program without creating a “taking” for which it would owe just compensation under the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Cato filed an amicus brief on behalf of the raisin-farming Horne family, as it had also done at earlier stages of the protracted case [our earlier coverage; my colleague Trevor Burrus’s write-up from March; Damon Root, Reason] And The Daily Show (“raisin outlaw”).

SCOTUS to hear raisin takings case again

For a second time, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which federal agricultural marketing order regulations compelled the Horne family of California to surrender about half their raisin crop for little if any compensation. [Will Baude, Ilya Somin, Michael McConnell] A previous high court ruling had kicked the case back to the Ninth Circuit for further proceedings [earlier here and here.]

Should the Court deem the requisitions a taking for which compensation is due, the implications for other agricultural programs are considerable. “Similar USDA marketing order programs are in place for almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries (both sweet and tart), Florida and Texas citrus, cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, olives, many onions and pears, pistachios, California plums and prunes, many potatoes, raisins, spearmint oil, tomatoes, and walnuts.” [Baylen Linnekin]

Also, wouldn’t this make a good illustration?

SCOTUS: Raisin-confiscation dispute is ripe enough

In its unanimous decision yesterday in Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Supreme Court did not reach the merits of whether the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 worked an unconstitutional taking without compensation from the Horne family, who process as well as grow raisins in central California, by compelling them to participate in its scheme. But it did rule that the Ninth Circuit was wrong in disclaiming jurisdiction over the Hornes’ suit on the grounds that they should have paid an enormous fine first and then sued to get it back. In doing so, it rejected the position taken by the Obama administration in favor of that taken by (among others) a Cato Institute amicus brief. (More: Ilya Shapiro, Cato; Ilya Somin; Damon Root, Reason; more background, Lyle Denniston/SCOTUSBlog, Michael Doyle/McClatchy, The Economist, James Bovard, Ilya Shapiro)

After the Ninth Circuit takes a further look, it would surprise no one if the merits of the case wound up back at the Supreme Court. I touched on the merits in this earlier post:

Max Boot, who has written a new book on the history of guerrilla movements, tells how Shamil, firebrand leader of a celebrated 19th-century Muslim insurgency in Chechnya and Dagestan, began to lose the allegiance of “many ordinary villagers who balked at his demands for annual tax payments amounting to 12 percent of their harvest.” Instead, they switched their allegiance to the rival Russian czar, whose demands were more modest.

The USDA’s marketing order committee demanded that the Hornes hand over 47 percent of their raisins without compensation.

Nice raisin crop you’ve grown there. Now hand over 47% of it to the state.

Max Boot, who has written a new book on the history of guerrilla movements, tells how Shamil, firebrand leader of a celebrated 19th-century Muslim insurgency in Chechnya and Dagestan, began to lose the allegiance of “many ordinary villagers who balked at his demands for annual tax payments amounting to 12 percent of their harvest.” Instead, they switched their allegiance to the rival Russian czar, whose demands were more modest.

Compare the pending case of Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, where, as my Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro explains,

the USDA imposed on the Hornes (long-time California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne) a “marketing order” demanding that they turn over 47% of their crop without compensation. The order — a much-criticized New Deal relic — forces raisin “handlers” to reserve a certain percentage of their crop “for the account” of the government-backed Raisin Administrative Committee, enabling the government to control the supply and price of raisins on the market. The RAC then either sells the raisins or simply gives them away to noncompetitive markets—such as federal agencies, charities, and foreign governments—with the proceeds going toward the RAC’s administration costs.

The U.S. government denies that it owes anything to the Hornes under the Takings Clause, and also says that to contest the legality of what has been done to them, the Hornes are obliged to pay the USDA what it demands — $438,000 for the raisins not handed over, plus $200,000 or so in penalties — and then sue in the Court of Federal Claims to get it back. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari and will hear oral argument March 20.