Back on March 6, this correspondent reported in this blog on the twin takings cases of Horne v. Department of Agriculture about the raisin-growing couple Marvin and Laura Horne of California and their struggles against the U.S. government.
In Horne I, the Supreme Court held that a property owner, facing a governmental enforcement action, can assert as a defense that the action effects a “taking” of one’s property (here, a raisin crop) “without just compensation,” thereby violating the Constitution. The Court then remanded the case in order for the lower court to determine if a taking had indeed occurred.
That lower court, the U.S. 9th Circuit, rarely sees a taking under any scenario and, true to form, gave several reasons why the Hornes’ raisins weren’t appropriated by the U.S. but were merely being “regulated.”
The Hornes once again appealed to the Supreme Court, which once again accepted their petition. As I predicted in March, the high court has now, again, reversed the 9th Circuit and ruled fully for the Hornes.
On June 22, the Court held 8-1 in Horne II that the physical appropriation of personal property (here, raisins), just as with real property, is a per se taking requiring just compensation. As Chief Justice Roberts put it, “The Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.” The Government defended itself by arguing no taking occurred “because raisin growers voluntarily choose to participate in the raisin market” as governed by a New Deal statute.
But the Court wasn’t buying it. Wrote the Chief Justice, “ ‘Let them sell wine’ [rather than raisins] is probably not much more comforting to the raisin growers than similar retorts have been to others throughout history.”
As to the just compensation owed the Hornes, while a minority of the Justices argued for remanding that question back to the 9th Circuit, a five member majority cried no more. “This case, in litigation for more than a decade, has gone on long enough,” replied the Chief. The Court relieved the couple of all the significant fines and penalty they had been assessed when they resisted the Government’s effort to take their raisins.
Finally, justice was done.