Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture: An Obscure SCOTUS Case, Explained in GIFs


Decision: June 10, 2013, 9-0

Summary at SCOTUSBlog

Y’all wanna talk about raisins?

The federal government runs this marketing program for California raisins that takes some of the crop off the market in order to make the price more consistent.

There’s a committee that decides how many raisins you can sell on the market each year, and the rest have to be sold in non-competitive ways (like to the government, to feed prisoners … or children).


A group of grape farmers (vineyarders?) started processing their own grapes into raisins for sale, arguing that since they were “producers,” not “processors,” the law didn’t apply.

The Department of Agriculture (DOA) went to court and got an order for the vineyarders to cough up $483,844 in fines.

LAW BREAK. So, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prevents the government from taking your crap without paying you a fair price for it. That part of the amendment is called the “takings clause.”


The vineyarders, headed by a couple called Horne, argued in court that the DOA was just “taking” their crap without just compensation. (Note: SCOTUS says it’s unclear if the vineyarders are talking about the fine or the raisin-withholding.)

The judge sided with the DOA, saying the vineyards were acting as “processors,” so they fell under the marketing program, and their raisins were not unfairly taken private property.

They ran to the Ninth Circuit, and they said, hey guys you have to take this to a special court called the Court of Federal Claims because this thing called the Tucker Act says so.

The Hornes were like, SO WHERE THE HELL CAN WE SUE YOU PEOPLE? And they ran to SCOTUS for an answer.

Traditionally, agricultural marketing orders like this one are enforced by DOA, and you can’t challenge them in normal courts before paying first.


This opinion says that private entities subject to government regulation have to be able to challenge the constitutionality of their fines before they pay up.

So now, a farmer or packer or drier or whatever the hell else you do to raisins-er can go to regular federal district court with a “takings” claim, and they can get a ruling on the fine’s validity before they have to pay.

The Hornes have to run back down to the lower court and sort their shit out.

This post originally appeared on effyeahscotus.tumblr.com.