The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday in Horne v. Department of Agriculture [transcript, PDF] over a government program that requires California raisin farmers to turn over a portion of their crop. The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (AMAA) and the California Raisin Marketing Order require raisin growers to turn over a percentage of their crop to the federal government to stabilize prices. Petitioners, a group of California raisin growers, refused to turn over their crops and sought judicial review of fines imposed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [official website], claiming a Fifth Amendment [text] violation. The questions before the court are:
- Whether the government’s “categorical duty” under the Fifth Amendment to pay just compensation when it “physically takes possession of an interest in property” … applies only to real property and not to personal property.
- Whether the government may avoid the categorical duty to pay just compensation for a physical taking of property by reserving to the property owner a contingent interest in a portion of the value of the property, set at the government’s discretion.
- Whether a governmental mandate to relinquish specific, identifiable property as a “condition” on permission to engage in commerce effects a per se taking.
At oral argument Wednesday, the justices seemed prepared to rule in favor of petitioners [LAT report].
The court previously ruled in this case in 2013 [JURIST report], finding that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had jurisdiction to review petitioners’ takings claim. The Ninth Circuit had held that petitioners were required to bring their takings claim in the Court of Federal Claims and that it therefore lacked jurisdiction to review petitioners’ claim. In an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court disagreed: “Petitioners’ takings claim, raised as an affirmative defense to the agency’s enforcement action, was properly before the court because the AMAA provides a comprehensive remedial scheme that withdraws Tucker Act jurisdiction over takings claims brought by raisin handlers.” The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case.