Monday, June 10, 2013

Defending against Enforcement Actions with the Takings Clause: Good News for Agriculture and Property Owners in U.S. Supreme Court

What's that, you say? The U.S. Supreme Court has just decided a second Takings Clause case this term, unanimously--and in the property owner's favor?

Indeed. In today's opinion by Justice Thomas, the Supreme Court again ruled favorably for property owners. Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, No. 12-236 (June 10, 2013). Recall that this is the case where raisin producers raised the Takings Clause as a defense to the  imposition of fines for a New Deal agricultural marketing law. In response, the government argued that the raisin producers can try their hand at bringing a separate lawsuit but cannot use it as a weapon against government enforcement. The Ninth Circuit bought the government's argument, but the U.S. Supreme Court did not.

While carefully noting that it was not ruling on the merits of the raisin producers' takings claim, the Supreme Court held that a "takings-based defense may be raised by a handler in the context of an enforcement proceeding initiated by the USDA under §608c(14)." Slip Op. at 14. The practical result of this holding is that the raisin producers will get to assert their takings defense below. So, their saga continues, but as in a case decided last year, Sackett v. EPA, the good news is that landowners continue to open the door to judicial review of abusive government processes. That is, the takings clause has been strengthened as a weapon for the property owner to use when the government brings enforcement actions against the property owner.

There's no media coverage of the case yet, but I'll update you when it becomes available. In the meantime, to catch up on the background of this case, see my archives. Stay tuned. We're still waiting on a decision in Koontz v. St Johns River Water Management District, No. 11-1447 (argued Jan. 15, 2012), which has some theoretical similarities to Horne. Here's hoping property owners go three-for-three at the U.S. Supreme Court this term.