The Supreme Court rules in favor of property rights and the right to exclude
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that private parties have the right to exclude unwanted visitors from coming onto their property, upholding the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of property rights.
In Pacific Legal Foundation’s case, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, two California agriculture businesses challenged a state law that allowed labor unions to come onto private property for up to three hours per day, 120 days per year for the purpose of recruiting new members.
One morning in October 2015, Cedar Point Nursery was stormed by dozens of rowdy union representatives. With bullhorns blasting and flags waving in the air, union activists claimed they were trying to inform workers of their right to join a union. Instead, as footage shows, they frightened workers and disrupted a vital workday during the nursery’s busy season.
PLF represented Cedar Point’s owner and president, Mike Fahner, in court.
Our attorneys argued that by permitting third parties to enter onto private property without paying just compensation—taking access—the California law violated the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which states that no “private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
In a 6-3 decision, the Court agreed with us.
Delivering the Court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “The founders recognized that the protection of private property is indispensable to the promotion of individual freedom. John Adams put it well: ‘Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.’”
We could not agree more. This is exactly why we fight so hard to defend the right of Americans to own and use their property.
Property rights are at the very heart of our Constitution, which was written with the explicit mission of protecting the individual against government abuses.
But it hasn’t been that way for nearly a hundred years. Since several Supreme Court decisions in the wake of the New Deal, property rights have been regarded as “second class” rights, deserving of fewer protections than others in the Bill of Rights, such as freedom of speech.
Cedar Point is one more step toward the restoration of property rights as a full-fledged constitutional right.
As I discussed with the Institute for Justice’s Scott Bullock in a recent Philanthropy Roundtable webinar, when PLF considers a case, we look for those situations that have the chance to advance our previous victories, continuously working to advance constitutional safeguards.
Our strategy was not revolutionary; we weren’t trying to win by finding some obscure loophole. Instead, we sought to restore rights that should never have been violated in the first place.
As our senior attorney Joshua Thompson, who argued the case in front of the Supreme Court, said, “Today’s ruling is a huge victory for property rights. Today’s decision affirms that one of the most fundamental aspects of property is the right to decide who can and can’t access your property.”
Like all PLF’s previous Supreme Court cases, Cedar Point will not just benefit our clients, but every individual in the nation, and especially those who currently or aspire to own property. We are honored to have played a role in restoring the Fifth Amendment’s promise to protecting a person’s right to control their own land.
We are so grateful to our donors and the entire donor community, without whom this victory would not have been possible. Thanks to our principled supporters, PLF is able to continue our relentless commitment to the Constitution as we fight to uphold individual liberty.
Steven D. Anderson is president and CEO of Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans’ liberties when threatened by government overreach and abuse.