- Baylen Linnekin, Keep Food Legal
Under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, the USDA has authority to regulate the sale of certain agricultural products, including California-grown raisins, through the use of “marketing orders.” The marketing order specific to California-grown raisins directs the Raisin Administrative Committee, a branch of the USDA, to establish a yearly raisin tonnage reserve requirement. Every year in February, raisin farmers are told what percentage of their crop is the “reserve requirement” they must turn over to the Committee. Failure to comply results in fines and penalties. In 2002 and 2003, the Horne family refused to comply and was fined over $700,000. In a 2013 decision, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that regulated entities cannot be compelled to pay regulatory fines before they may contest their constitutionality, under the Fifth Amendment’s protection against uncompensated government seizure of private property (the Takings Clause). On remand in Horne, the federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that there was no taking. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 22, and answer three questions: (1) Whether the government's “categorical duty” under the Fifth Amendment to pay just compensation when it “physically takes possession of an interest in property” applies only to real property and not to personal property; (2) whether the government may avoid the categorical duty to pay just compensation for a physical taking of property by reserving to the property owner a contingent interest in a portion of the value of the property, set at the government's discretion; and (3) whether a governmental mandate to relinquish specific, identifiable property as a “condition” on permission to engage in commerce effects a per se taking.
On March 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency. The case is comprised of three consolidated petitions, one from a group of 21 states, one from the trade group for electrical power plants, and one from the trade group for suppliers of coal to these plants. The Court will answer “Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.”
The laws of six states prohibit businesses—but not unions or other groups—from contributing to political parties, committees, or candidates. On February 24, 2015, the Goldwater Institute filed suit on behalf of two family-owned Massachusetts businesses to challenge Massachusetts’ political contribution ban. Since 1908, businesses have faced a total contribution ban, but special rules implemented in 1988 allow unions to contribute as much as $15,000 before any disclosure requirements or other contribution limits apply to the union. After unions have donated $15,000 to campaigns, their PACs can continue to contribute up to the ordinary limits. Meanwhile, business-funded PACs are banned from contributing. Does the Massachusetts law violate state and federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection, free speech, and free association?
Members of the Federalist Society’s Financial Services & E-Commerce Practice Group Executive Committee provided an update on recent important activity at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Recent developments included the results of the CFPB's arbitration study, the suspension of credit card agreement submission to the CFPB, new criticism of the CFPB's mortgage rate tool, and new payday lending rules.