Diary

Today at the Supreme Court

Today, the Supreme Court released decisions in four cases.  No- none of them involved gay marriage, Obamacare subsidies, the death penalty, or redistricting commissions.  They remain cases pending a decision along with one whether the mere possession of a short barrel shotgun could be a construed as a felony under the Career Armed Criminal Act and another case involving whether disparate impact can be considered under the Fair Housing Act.  Those decisions will be forthcoming either later this week or next.  The Supreme Court high tails it out of DC before July.

One case involved patents and was decided 6-3 and needs no mention here.  The second case, Los Angeles vs. Patel involved an LA ordinance that required hotels and motels to retain a guest registry with certain information and that the police be allowed access to those registries upon request- that is, without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  The decision was 5-4 with Kennedy joining the liberal wing of the Court determining that the ordinance was facially unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

The city argued that this was an important law enforcement tool for cracking down on drug dealers and prostitutes who often used hotels and motels by paying cash.  The maintenance and unannounced police search of those records, they argued, was not only a deterrent against illicit activity, but it enabled them to crack down on these crimes.

In another 5-4 decision authored by Breyer (Kennedy again siding with the liberal wing), the Court decided the standard of review in a case of excessive police force of a pretrial detainee.  In this case- Kingsley vs. Hendrickson- the plaintiff, awaiting trial in police custody got into a scuffle with guards who then handcuffed him and used a Taser on him.  He sued claiming excessive use of force.  The Court ruled that his lawsuit could go forward based upon a standard of what a reasonable person would expect reasonable force to be.

The final case was Horne vs. Department of Agriculture- Round Two.  After remanding the case last term to the Ninth Circuit it returns and the Court, in a 5-4 plurality decision with the opinion of Roberts controlling (this time Kennedy joined the conservative wing), the Court ruled that government confiscation of personal property required just compensation under the Fifth Amendment.

In short, the government withheld a certain percentage of the raisin crop in California in order to boost prices nationally ensuring raisin growers a certain minimal income.  Horne sued since he was fined for holding back part of his crop.  The Court ruled that he was entitled to compensation since the crop was personal property.  They furthermore ruled that the government cannot, without compensation, demand that agricultural participants adhere to regulatory and price support schemes as a condition of engaging in interstate commerce.

This is a clear cut victory for farmers and the agriculture business and a huge blow to government price support schemes that withhold certain crops to boost prices.  This is a major slap down of a widespread Agriculture Department program.