Obama Denied Free Raisins

June 23rd, 2015
raisins
Over the past thirteen years raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne have been fighting with the Raisin Administrative Committee about whether they are required to give a percentage of their crop to the government. Their case has gone through many layers of the court system, and I wrote about it with more background two years ago when the Supreme Court ruled on the case for the first time. The case has now come back up to the Supreme Court and their new ruling is up (pdf).

The main arguments are based around the takings clause of the 5th amendment:

... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
(There's lots of case law about this clause, which means the constitution's words here don't make up the whole law anymore, but they're still the basis of it.)

Summary:

Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito

The government physically took the raisins and demonstrated no benefit to the Hornes. By the takings clause the Hornes may keep their raisins and owe no fine.

Breyer, Ginsberg, Kagan

The takings clause applies but the Hornes benefitted in the form of higher raisin prices. The lower courts should determine the size of this counterfactual benefit, which the Hornes then owe.

Thomas

The takings clause applies, but the purpose the raisins were taken for was not "public use" and so the raisins may not be taken regardless of compensation.

Sotomayor

The takings clause does not apply, because the Hornes were not completely deprived of their property and precedent on the meaning of "taken" here is is very narrow.

With this ruling I expect raisin prices to fall, which should save the Free Raisins a relatively small amount of money when we next refresh our supply.

Irrelevant quotes:

  • "Raisins are not dangerous pesticides; they are a healthy snack."
  • "Raisins are not like oysters."
  • "Having the Court of Appeals calculate 'just compensation' in this case would be a fruitless exercise."

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