Supreme Court Decision Makes It Harder for Government to Take Personal Property From Americans

Posted: June 23, 2015 in Politics

Department of Agriculture regulator found California raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne liable for not participating in a 1940s era marketing order by fining them over $695,000 for numerous violations and, including an assessment of nearly $484,000 for the dollar value of the raisins not held in reserve.

The Hornes challenged the government’s scheme as a violation of the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, which prohibits the government from taking “private property for a public use” “without just compensation.” Writing for a majority of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts found that the Takings Clause applies to personal property (i.e., raisins) as well as real property (i.e., the family farm). He concluded, “The Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.”

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither the text nor history of the Takings Clause suggests that the Constitution treats government appropriation of personal property and real property differently. This principle can be traced back to Magna Carta, and as the court explained, the Fifth Amendment was drafted, in part, “in response to the arbitrary and oppressive mode of obtaining supplies for the army, and other public uses … during the revolutionary war, without any compensation whatever.” Further, the majority pointed out that its precedents make clear that there is a “longstanding distinction” between regulations on property and the government occupying or taking away property.

The court further held that the government’s pay-to-play requirement that the Hornes and other raisin farmers surrender some of their crop (some years nearly 50 percent of their crop) as a condition of entering the raisin business is a per se regulatory taking. The majority noted that selling raisins in interstate commerce is “not a special governmental benefit that the Government may hold hostage, to be ransomed by the waiver of constitutional protection.”

This decision is a victory for economic freedom and the right of individuals not to participate in government cartel schemes that harm the public interest. Faced with having to pay just compensation to non-participating farmers, the Agriculture Department may consider letting its harmful marketing orders wither on the vine.

Source: [Daily Signal]

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