Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid is an agriculture property rights case with implications beyond the farm

March 19, 2021 | By DAMIEN SCHIFF
CP three

On March 22, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in a case that will either strengthen or erode Americans’ property rights threatened by (oftentimes partisan) politics.

In Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, the High Court will decide whether the government may give permission to select private groups to violate other people’s property rights. While property rights law can often seem technical or narrow in scope, the impacts of Cedar Point could be far-reaching into many different hot-button political issues.

The specifics of Cedar Point deal with the Access Regulation, a California administrative rule that allows union activists access to private farms (for up to three hours a day, 120 days a year) to recruit potential members. Despite the union having access to employees at their homes or (for temporary workers) their hotels, as well as through social media, radio, television, and the internet, California has forced farmers to allow the union onto their property during the work day to disrupt work and recruit.

PLF is representing two California agricultural producers, Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, that have had their business operations interrupted by labor organizers trying to invade their property under the auspices of California’s Access Regulation. The farmers argue that the regulation is an uncompensated (and therefore unconstitutional) government taking of their property, because it preempts their right to exclude unwanted persons from their property.

While the Court will be hearing arguments about the California agriculture law specifically, the potential impacts of the case reach far beyond the strawberry or clementine farms of the Golden State.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of California and allows government to give politically connected special interests the ability to violate other people’s property rights, there are many politicians across the political spectrum who could abuse that power.

For example: Should a state be allowed to force union-friendly businesses to host right-to-work advocates on their property to explain why labor unions are bad for workers? Should a state be able to require an energy plant to open its doors to environmental activists who want to demonstrate their concern for climate change? Should the state be able to force a workplace that employs large numbers of immigrant laborers to host anti-immigration activists?

Or let’s go further into even more sensitive cultural territory: Should a state be allowed to give pro-life groups access inside abortion clinics to talk to patients about their decisions? Or, conversely, should the state be able to force a private Catholic school to let abortion-rights advocates present to the school’s student body? (while there could also be some First Amendment problems with this, California’s access law could create a property rights precedent for this scenario).

While some of these examples are extreme, if the California union access rule is allowed to stand, many—if not all—of them could be deemed constitutional.

Despite the dangerous precedent that will be set if California’s union access law is allowed to stand, there are many hyperbolic and misleading claims being made about the case. Media outlets like Vox and Salon have mistakenly claimed that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the farmer-plaintiffs, many regulatory and civil rights laws will be put at risk. But the Access Regulation has nothing to do with assuring growers’ compliance with health and safety rules or worker protection laws. The rule is an unconstitutional gift of access to a well-connected, non-governmental party seeking to expand its own membership.

By proving that point at the Supreme Court, we hope to secure a win for our clients and set important precedent for the property rights of all Americans.