A New Way to Fight Regulations?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a raisin grower, finding a New Deal era program unconstitutional in the process.

[Marvin Horne] sued, alleging this scheme violated the 5th Amendment, which says private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation.

The high court agreed in Horne vs. USDA. Although most cases about taking property have involved real estate, the principle applies to raisins as well, the court said.

"The government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home," said Chief Justice John G. Roberts for the court.

Treating a regulatory program as a taking of personal property could prove more broadly significant. [bold added]
The last sentence might perhaps offer some encouragement for anyone facing a legal battle against improper government regulation. That said, the encouragement is limited for a couple of reasons. First, as the report indicates, it is unclear that the Court would "extend the legal principle to cover cases of regulations that don't involve physical taking of property". Second, and more important, the reliance of this case on the Fifth Amendment means that in so far as the "taking" is regarded (rightly or not) as within the proper scope of the government, a case might only affect compensation. On top of that, the Fifth Amendment is already being read to allow for what amounts to a partial, uncompensated taking in the form of regulations that don't "go too far": "[T]he court has said land-use regulations go too far when they deprive the owner of all use of the property."

I see this ruling not so much as a victory for property rights or a great blow against government regulation, as a possible way to fight a few more egregious abuses of government power. Perhaps, in some cases, it could buy time. In any event, as we saw with the ruling that saw the ObamaCare personal mandate upheld as a "tax", the real fight for government protection of individual rights is a fight for minds within the voting public and over the long haul, and not in a few isolated court rooms.

-- CAV

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