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Archived: Private Property Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the nation's leading centers fighting to ensure that property owners are accorded all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. MSLF defends property owners who cannot afford to fight back against government lawyers and environmental groups to protect their property rights. MSLF's litigation has helped to ensure the preservation of one of America's most valuable and valued freedoms--the right to own and use property.

Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Legal Question:

Whether a federal program that requires a business to turn over its private property to the government for sale by the government and possible return of some of the proceeds of that sale constitutes an unconstitutional taking of property without just compensation?

Petitioners

Marvin and Laura Horne

Respondent

United States Department of Agriculture

Amicus Curiae:

Mountain States Legal Foundation

Court:

Supreme Court of the United States
Unknown
Under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues a Raisin Marketing Order (RMO), which restricts the amount of raisins from a crop year that raisin handlers in California may sell on the open market.  Handlers must separate raisins into “free tonnage,” which they may sell, and “reserve tonnage,” which they then transfer to the Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) for it to sell in secondary and non-competitive markets to fund its administration.

The Hornes have farmed raisins in California since 1969.  In 2002, Raisin Valley Farms—in partnership with Lassen Vineyards, owned by the Hornes and Ms. Horne’s parents—purchased equipment to clean, sort, stem, and package their own raisins, that is, to function as a handler.  In addition to handling raisins produced by their farm, they processed raisins for other local growers, but did not comply with the RMO and did not transfer title to a portion of their crops to the RAC.

In April 2004, the Agriculture Marketing Service took legal action against the Hornes for crop years 2002–2003 and 2003–2004, when they were required to set aside 47 percent and 30 percent, respectively.  The attempt by the Hornes to challenge the $695,226 in penalties levied against them on constitutional groups was rejected by the lower federal courts.  In 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that the family could raise a constitutional defense against federal agency action.  On remand, the Ninth Circuit held there was not a taking because real property was not involved, the family did not lose all the value of its property, and the family received a public benefit.

On September 8, 2014, the Hornes again petitioned for a writ certiorari.  On October 8, 2014, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Hornes.  On January 16, 2015, the Supreme Court granted the petition.  On March 9, 2015, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief on the merits in support of the Hornes.  On April 22, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments.  On June 22, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the family’s property had been taken without “just compensation” and ruled 5-3 that the value of the property taken was the fine assessed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

No Status Updates
  • Western Group Praises “Unconstitutional Taking” Ruling on FDR Law

    Jun 22, 2015
    A western, nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience battling for the payment of “just compensation” for the “unconstitutional taking” of property today celebrated a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States reversing a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and holding that a regulatory program adopted in the Great Depression caused the “taking” of a California family’s crops.
  • Western Group Urges Reversal of FDR-Era Unconstitutional Taking

    Mar 9, 2015
    A western, nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience battling for the payment of “just compensation” for the “unconstitutional taking” of property today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving a regulatory program adopted during the Great Depression that caused the “taking” of a California family’s crops.
  • Western Group Welcomes Review of FDR Unconstitutional Provision

    Jan 16, 2015
    A western, nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience battling for the payment of “just compensation” for the “unconstitutional taking” of property today welcomed a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving a regulatory program adopted during the Great Depression that caused the “taking” of a California family’s crops.
  • Western Group Urges Review of FDR Era Unconstitutional Provision

    Oct 8, 2014
    A western, nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience battling for the payment of “just compensation” for the “unconstitutional taking” of property today urged the Supreme Court of the United States to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving a regulatory program adopted during the Great Depression that caused the “taking” of a California family’s crops.


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