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Horne v. Department of Agriculture

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20122
Nos. 12-123, (U.S., 06/10/2013)

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's decision that it lacked jurisdiction to hear a raisin grower's claim that a marketing order under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (AMAA) requiring handlers to participate in a raisin reserve program violates the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against taking property without just compensation. The court incorrectly determined that the growers brought their takings claim as producers rather than handlers. Although the growers argued that they were producers—and thus not handlers subject to the marketing order—both USDA and the district court concluded that they were handlers. In addition, the fines and civil penalties for failure to reserve raisins were levied on them in that capacity. Because the order imposes duties on the growers only in their capacity as handlers, their takings claim raised as a defense against those duties is necessarily raised in that same capacity. In finding otherwise, the Ninth Circuit confused the growers' statutory argument that they were producers with their constitutional argument that, assuming they were handlers, their fine violated the Fifth Amendment. The relevant question, therefore, is whether a federal court has jurisdiction to adjudicate a takings defense raised by a handler seeking review of a final agency order. The Court ruled that it does. The government argued that the grower's takings claim is premature because the Tucker Act affords a remedy, but the AMAA provides a comprehensive remedial scheme that withdraws Tucker Act jurisdiction over a handler's takings claim. In addition, a takings-based defense may be raised by a handler in the context of an enforcement proceeding initiated by USDA under 7 U.S.C. §608c(14). The Ninth Circuit, therefore, has jurisdiction to decide whether USDA's imposition of fines and civil penalties on the growers, in their capacity as handlers, violated the Fifth Amendment. Thomas, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.