This week, the Supreme Court issued the second of its three takings decision for this term. In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, No. 12-123 (June 10, 2013), the Court reversed an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, holding that California raisin handlers could assert a takings claim as a defense to an enforcement action over alleged non-compliance with a raisin regulatory scheme.
At first glance, the case appears to be of little consquence. The factual background is quite unique, and the holding is pretty narrowly drawn to those specific facts. Moreover, just as in the first takings decision from this term, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States, while the Court held that the property owner has the right to make a takings argument, the Court did NOT conclude that a taking had in fact occurred. A decision on the merits of the takings argument must await another day, as the Court remanded the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
But when one digs a bit deeper, the case may have a real impact. The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's application of Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City (1985) 473 U.S. 172, a standing case that has doomed countless takings claims over the past 25 years. It also made clear that takings claims need not be limited to claims for "just compensation."
To learn more about these issues and why Robert Thomas "respectfully dissent[s] from the viewpoint that sees Horne as the least important and interesting of the 2013 Takings trilogy," read his blog post on the case, Unanimous SCOTUS: There's More To The Takings Clause Than Just "Just Compensation". Even if you don't want to learn more about these issues, the post includes the famous 1986 California Raisins performance of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," so you may want to check it out anyway.
For a more mundane recap of the decision and the background leading up to it -- one with no video links whatsoever -- check out our E-Alert, The Grapes of Wrath: U.S. Supreme Court Holds that Takings Claim Can be Raised as an Affirmative Defense to Enforcement Action Against Raisin Handlers.
Now, we will await the verdict on the final case in the trilogy, Koontz v. St. John's River Water Management District, It was argued in January, and a decision could be issued any time. For a recent article on that case and how it may play out, check out Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District: Trudging Through a Florida Wetland with Nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices by John M. Baker and Katherine M. Swenson.