The Obama administration, however, termed this a “scheme” designed to avoid legal requirements, and the Agriculture Department subsequently ordered the Hornes and their coalition to pay more than $650,000 in fees and penalties.
“(The Hornes) repeatedly failed to pay any assessments . . . to have inspections of incoming raisins performed, to allow USDA access to their records, despite being served by the agency with two subpoenas, and to hold raisins in reserve,” the Justice Department stated in a legal brief.
The dissident growers, in turn, call the raisin set-aside as well as the fees and penalties a “taking” of property. Under the Fifth Amendment, takings require just compensation by the government.
“We’ve been subject to lots of harassment by USDA,” Horne said.
The Supreme Court won’t decide on the wisdom of the raisin program. Rather, the court essentially will decide when and where the takings claims can be raised.
The Hornes want the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on the takings claim, while the government wants the farmers to file a separate lawsuit seeking to get their money back through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Here is where the case gets both technical and broader-reaching.
Libertarians with the Washington-based Cato Institute and business leaders with the Chamber of Commerce want the Hornes to win because that could mean other property owners could raise the takings claim as a defense against government-imposed fines or penalties.
The alternative – forcing property owners to file a separate claims court lawsuit – would cause them to “incur needless time, expense and uncertainty,” the Chamber of Commerce argued in a legal brief. Texas makes a similar argument on the Hornes’ behalf.
“We’ve always thought that justice would prevail,” Horne said.