The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a California family that produces raisins and said the government can’t just take their products without paying for them.
“The Fifth Amendment requires that the government pay just compensation when it takes personal property, just as when it takes real property. Any net proceeds the raisin growers receive from the sale of the reserve raisins goes to the amount of compensation they have received for that taking – it does not mean the raisins have not been appropriated for government use,” the court said.
“Nor can the government make raisin growers relinquish their property without just compensation as a condition of selling their raisins …”
The decision came at a time when Americans are awaiting rulings from the court both on Obamacare and whether that signature law will survive, and whether the justices will mandate “same-sex marriage” across the states.
The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts in a case brought by raisin producer Marvin Horne. It stemmed from a government order from the secretary of agriculture that raisin producers relinquish a certain percentage of their crop – in the year in question it was 47 percent – to the government at no charge.
The government’s intent purportedly was to “stabilize” a market, and it disposed of the confiscated raisins however it chose. If there was any income left after government expenses, it distributed that proportionally to the raisin producers.
Horne argued that violated his constitutional protections against the government seizure of private property.
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Horne, of Fresno, California, even refused entry to government agents when they arrived at his operation to confiscate his crop.
The government argued that he could pay a fine estimated at about $700,000, and then file a claim for reimbursement.
A lower court had ruled that the Constitution’s “Takings Clause” doesn’t apply to raisins, and the impact of the Supreme Court decision won’t be fully known for some time, since besides the order to confiscate raisins, the government also has various orders to take almonds, plums, spearmint oil and the like.
The specific order in this case stemmed from the 1937 Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act, a result of the Great Depression.
A United States Department of Agriculture official told Fox News there would be proposed changes in the rules based on the decision.
Roberts described how the Hornes had not only produced their own raisins, but acted as a “handler” and bought raisins from other small producers, so actually had purchased some of the raisins the government demanded for free.
“In 2002, the Hornes refused to set aside any raisins for the government believing they were not legally bound to do so. The government sent trucks to the Hornes’ facility at eight o’clock one morning to pick up the raisins, but the Hornes refused entry,” he said.
The court’s opinion said, “The government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home. The Takings Clause provides: ‘Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.’”
The opinion continued, “The principle reflected in the clause goes back at least 800 years to Magna Carta, which specifically protected agricultural crops from uncompensated takings. Clause 28 of that charter forbade any ‘constable or other bailiff’ from taking ‘corn or other provisions from any one without immediately tendering money therefore, unless he can have postponement thereof by permission of the seller.’”
Roberts wrote, “The reserve requirement imposed by the Raisin Committee is a clear physical taking. Actual raisins are transferred from the growers to the government. Title to the raisins passes to the Raisin Committee. The committee’s raisins must be physically segregated from free-tonnage raisins. … The committee disposes of what become its raisins as it wishes, to promote the purposes of the raisin marketing order.”
He continued, “Raisin growers subject to the reserve requirement thus lose the entire ‘bundle of property rights in the appropriated raisins – ‘the right to possess, use and dispose of’ them.”
He wrote that it doesn’t matter that the raisin growers eventually may get some payment back from the government after it disposes of the raisins and pays its own expenses.
The opinion called that an “indeterminate value” and noted that during several of the years in question, those “rights” effectively were “worthless.”
The opinion said the family should simply be relieved of the fines and penalties brought by the government.
One justice, Sonia Sotomayor, argued that the confiscations should be allowed to continue.
She said the Hornes retained an interest in the raisins – through the possibility that the government may decide to offer them some sort of payment for their confiscated raisins after the government disposes of them and pays itself.
She said the “government cannot be blamed” for market conditions in the market that it has set up that very program to control.
While she admitted the government’s actions would directly impact the producers’ potential income, she accused the other justices of making mistakes.
First, she wrote, was the “breezy assumption” that a government demand producers hand over nearly half their crop was a “taking,” and that such a regulatory “taking” is inappropriate.
“It is not the case … that government agents … are storming raisin farms in the dark of night to load raisins onto trucks,” she wrote.
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2015/06/supremes-rule-in-government-grab-of-private-property/#fbgr07geriBW7il0.99