The U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday to review a lawsuit between a valley raisin grower and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The grower was penalized for not following federal rules, while the government is being accused of violating the constitution.
A Valley raisin grower is at odds with the federal government, and the U.S. Supreme court is getting involved.
Tuesday, the High Court decided to review Marvin Horne's case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Horne runs the Raisin Valley Farm in Kerman. He's challenging a federal raisin-marketing order that's been in place for more than 60 years.
"They said, look you can't take our property without giving us compensation under the United States Constitution. It's called the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment," says Attorney Steffen Johnson.
The marketing order requires growers to set part of their crop aside for reserves. The government then buys those reserves. In 2003 and 2004, Horne didn't follow the rules.
"They thought the relevant raisin marketing order only applied to handlers of raisins, not producers of raisins."
The case was taken to court, where Horne was ordered to pay nearly $700,000 in penalties and fees. Horne tried to appeal the case, but was told he was in the wrong court. The Supreme Court has now stepped in, but not to decide who was at fault.
"It'll determine where that claim is heard, which court and whether farmers have to sue twice in order to get their money back. I think the fact that this has gotten their attention is a good sign for the Horne's," says Johnson.
"If he didn't like the reserves situation, it's really too bad. Those are the rules everybody has followed since it's inception," says Alan Kasparian.
This case is a little hard to swallow for raisin grower Alan Kasparian.
Kasparian says, "There are always mavericks, I call them the Rambos of the world, that want to do things their own way. It's wrong. It affects all of us."
Horne's attorney Brian Leighton says in private cases like this, there's typically less than a 1% chance the Supreme Court will grant a review, so this was a big victory.
The Court should reach some sort of decision by June 30, 2013. Whatever it decides could affect Valley farmers and cases like these in the future.
Three table grape growers are also suing the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission over patents and licensing. The Supreme Court will also decide if it will hear that case. That decision should come Wednesday.