10 June 2013

A Supreme Court case about raisins--in pictures

There once was a raisin...
Actually, there were a bunch of raisins...
In fact, there were so many raisins that prices plummeted. The government stepped in...
It established the Raisin Marketing Order, which removed surplus
raisins from the open market in order to control prices...

Marvin and Laura Horne of Raisin Valley Farms were not to0
 thrilled with this arrangement. They wrote to the USDA:
“[W]e are growers that will pack and market our raisins. We reserve our rights under the Constitution of the United States . . . [T]he Marketing Order Regulating Raisins has become a tool for grower bankruptcy, poverty, and involuntary servitude. The Marketing Order Regulating Raisins is a complete failure for growers, handlers, and the USDA . . . [W]e will not relinquish ownership of our crop. We put forth the money and effort to grow it, not the Raisin Administrative Committee. This is America, not a communist state.”

Disillusioned with a regulatory scheme they deemed "outdated" and exploitive of farmers, the Hornes looked for ways to avoid the Raisin Marketing Order's requirements, particularly its mandatory raisin reserve program. Because those requirements apply only to handlers, the Hornes implemented a plan to bring their raisins to market without going through a traditional middle-man packer. As part of their plan, the Hornes purchased their own equipment and facilities to clean, stem, sort, and package raisins...
The United States Department of Agriculture was not amused...
An Administrative Law Judge found the Hornes liable for nearly $500,000
of withheld reserve raisins, and the District Court agreed...
The Hornes argued that the reserve requirement was a taking in violation of the 5th Amendment...
The Ninth Circuit ruled that that the Hornes were handlers subject to the Raisin Marketing 
Order, but said that their takings claim should have been brought in a different court...
This would have required the Hornes to take the case to a different court and start over...
Fortunately, the Supreme Court stepped in and decided to hear the case...
The Supreme Court decided that the Ninth Circuit has 
jurisdiction to decide petitioners’ takings claim...
The Court also decided that the Hornes may raise their takings-based defense in the context
of the enforcement proceeding initiated by the USDA under the raisin program...
As a result of this decision, the case will return to the Ninth Circuit, where the
court will determine if the USDA’s imposition of fines and civil penalties on the Hornes,
in their capacity as handlers, violated the Fifth Amendment.

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