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John G. Roberts Jr. Sonia Sotomayor U.S. Supreme Court

Sides with raisin farmers

Jun 2015

In an 8-1 decision, the justices rule that a government program meant to increase raisin prices by keeping some of them off the market amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property by the government. Chief Justice Roberts writes for the majority:

The fact that the growers retain a contingent interest of indeterminate value does not mean there has been no physical taking, particularly since the value of the interest depends on the discretion of the taker, and may be worthless, as it was for one of the two years at issue here.

Justice Sotomayor is the sole dissenting voter. She states that the majority had damaged settled legal principles…

… in a manner that is as unwarranted as it is vague. What makes the court’s twisting of the doctrine even more baffling is that it ultimately instructs the government that it can permissibly achieve its market control goals by imposing a quota without offering raisin producers a way of reaping any return whatsoever on the raisins they cannot sell. I have trouble understanding why anyone would prefer that.

The justices are, however, divided 5-4 on the issue of compensation for the plaintiffs, with Justices Breyer, Kagan and Ginsburg joining in the dissent.