Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture: An Obscure SCOTUS Case, Explained in GIFs

Decision: June 10, 2013, 9-0

Summary at SCOTUSBlog

Y’all wanna talk about raisins?


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The federal government runs this marketing program for California raisins that takes some of the crop off the market in order to make the price more consistent.


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There’s a committee that decides how many raisins you can sell on the market each year, and the rest have to be sold in non-competitive ways (like to the government, to feed prisoners … or children).

 

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A group of grape farmers (vineyarders?) started processing their own grapes into raisins for sale, arguing that since they were “producers,” not “processors,” the law didn’t apply.


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The Department of Agriculture (DOA) went to court and got an order for the vineyarders to cough up $483,844 in fines.


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LAW BREAK. So, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prevents the government from taking your crap without paying you a fair price for it. That part of the amendment is called the “takings clause.”

 

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The vineyarders, headed by a couple called Horne, argued in court that the DOA was just “taking” their crap without just compensation. (Note: SCOTUS says it’s unclear if the vineyarders are talking about the fine or the raisin-withholding.)


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The judge sided with the DOA, saying the vineyards were acting as “processors,” so they fell under the marketing program, and their raisins were not unfairly taken private property.


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They ran to the Ninth Circuit, and they said, hey guys you have to take this to a special court called the Court of Federal Claims because this thing called the Tucker Act says so.


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The Hornes were like, SO WHERE THE HELL CAN WE SUE YOU PEOPLE? And they ran to SCOTUS for an answer.


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Traditionally, agricultural marketing orders like this one are enforced by DOA, and you can’t challenge them in normal courts before paying first.


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AND THEN IT ALL CHANGED.


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This opinion says that private entities subject to government regulation have to be able to challenge the constitutionality of their fines before they pay up.


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So now, a farmer or packer or drier or whatever the hell else you do to raisins-er can go to regular federal district court with a “takings” claim, and they can get a ruling on the fine’s validity before they have to pay.


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The Hornes have to run back down to the lower court and sort their shit out.

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This post originally appeared on effyeahscotus.tumblr.com.

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Meredith Whitfield

Unsucking SCOTUS at effyeahscotus.tumblr.com.

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