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Horne v. Department of Agriculture

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Under a USDA order, the federal government was required to obtain a portion of raisin farmers’ raisin crops for government use. The Hornes, Plaintiff, refused to give any of their raisins to the government. The Hornes brought suit on the grounds that the government’s actions constituted a taking, in violation of the 5th Amendment. The appellate court held in the governments favor, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When the government mandates one to relinquish specific, identifiable, and safe personal property as a condition to engage in commerce, the government’s actions constitute a per se taking, requiring just compensation.

    Facts.

    As required by an order from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal government obtained a portion of raisin farmers’ raisin crops for government use. With the raisin crops, the government would sell the raisins to stimulate and retain a healthy raisin market. Additionally, the government would keep the revenue from the sales. The Hornes, raisin growers, refused to give any of their raisins to the government. Thereafter, the government fined the Hornes for their refusal. The Hornes instigated this action against the government on the grounds that the USDA order was an unconstitutional taking of property under the Fifth Amendment. Nonetheless, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in the government’s favor, finding the raisin-reserve requirement did not constitute a taking. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Whether the government’s actions constitute a per se taking, requiring just compensation, when the government mandates one to relinquish specific, identifiable, and safe personal property as a condition to engage in commerce.

    Held.

    Yes, the government’s actions constitute a per se taking, requiring just compensation, when the government mandates one to relinquish specific, identifiable, and safe personal property as a condition to engage in commerce.

    Dissent.

    Although the majority properly finds that the raisin-reserve requirement is a taking, the Hornes have not established the government had not justly compensated them for it. Instead, the Hornes obtain a benefit from having a healthy raisin market that the government maintains through the USDA order. Also, the Hornes’ raisin prices are probably higher specifically because of the government’s maintenance of the market. Further, we are left with an unresolved question of whether this benefit is sufficient to constitute just compensation. Therefore, the court should remand the case for such determination.

    Concurrence.

    The majority properly finds that the government’s actions constitute a taking without just compensation. In conjunction with the majority’s reasons, this case should not be remanded, as requested by the dissenting opinion, because the government’s reason of obtaining the raisins is not for public use. Under the Takings Clause, the government may take private property for public use on the condition that the government provides just compensation. Here, the USDA order is not a taking for public use. Therefore, the taking is unlawful regardless if just compensation was awarded or not.

    Discussion.

    When the government mandates one to relinquish specific, identifiable, and safe personal property as a condition to engage in commerce, the government’s actions constitute a per se taking, requiring just compensation. This rule applies to both real property and personal property. Moreover, if the government conducts a physical taking of another’s personal property, the government is required to pay just compensation, despite the fact that it may reserve a portion for the property. In Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co., this Court held that pesticides are required to have labels informing the public of its health and safety information to sell the product. 467 U.S. 986 (1984). This court balanced the burden of the labeling requirement with the governmental benefit of a license to sell a dangerous product. In Leonard & Leonard v. Earle, this Court also held that oyster packers were required to send to the government a specific portion of their harvest as a condition of harvesting oysters. 279 U.S. 392 (1929). Here, the court of appeals improperly held that the governments actions do not constitute a taking because the order is requiring the Hornes relinquish a portion of their raisin crop as a condition to continue selling the raisins in commerce constitutes a per se taking, requiring just compensation. Further, the government has not paid just compensation in this case. This case is different from similar government orders, which involved pesticides and oysters. First, Ruckelshaus is different because, unlike pesticides, raisins are not dangerous chemicals. Thus, there is not a reasonable justification for the placing an onerous condition on their sale. Second, Earle is different because, unlike oysters, which are wild animals that the government owns under state law, raisins are the fruit of the Hornes’ own labor. Therefore, the judgement of the court of appeals is reversed because the USDA order constitutes a per se takings without just compensation. 


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