Society / Justice and Law

Seattle U in The News: The Obscure Case That Could Blow Up American Civil-Rights and Consumer-Protection Laws

March 25, 2021

Seattle U President-Elect Eduardo Peñalver penned an op-ed published in The Atlantic that argues that overturning a 1975 California agricultural law could dramatically reduce what the federal government can do on many crucial issues.

"On Monday, the Supreme Court heard a case that focuses on obscure and technical points of property law, but has the potential to devastate major areas of law, such as rent control and civil rights," says President-Elect Eduardo Peñalver in his op-ed

Here are excerpts from the opening paragraphs.

"The case, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, involves a decades-old California law that allows agricultural labor organizers to enter commercial farms in order to meet with farmworkers and educate them about their rights. That law has been on the books since 1975, and agribusiness has hated it from the beginning. It grants farmworker labor organizers access to farmers’ property, though in an effort to minimize any impact their presence would have on the owners’ operations, it sets limits on when and where organizers can enter. Commercial farmers have repeatedly challenged the law, arguing that it violates landowners’ rights under the takings clause—the part of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution stating that private property cannot be “taken for public use without just compensation.” Previous challenges to the California law have been uniformly rejected by state and federal courts, and the plaintiffs in Cedar Point failed to persuade any of the lower courts to invalidate the law. And yet, the farmers may now have found just the audience they need in the Supreme Court’s new 6–3 conservative majority.

"If the Court does endorse the legal theory that the farmers advocate, the consequences could reshape American law for decades to come. This is because the theory rests on the dramatic claim that any government regulation allowing people not invited by the owner to enter private property is equivalent to the government installing a sidewalk or a pipeline on private land."