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The Supreme Court may be sending a message to one of the country's most liberal appeals courts, unanimously overturning five consecutive cases out of the 9th Circuit in less than a week.
As the nation's biggest circuit, representing most of the western United States, it should come as no surprise that the 9th Circuit has more cases heard before the Supreme Court than any other jurisdiction -- in turn resulting in more reversals. But the latest string of rulings is unusual even for the 9th, which often is at odds with conservatives on the Supreme Court. The fact that the rulings were unanimous can be seen as a signal from on high that the circuit needs to get in line.
Now, if they can reverse the assinine imminent domain law...
...Before adoption of the Constitution, states, under the Articles of Confederation, had erected protectionist barriers that interfered with the free flow of trade in the new country. One of the main reasons for the Constitutional Convention was to remedy that problem. The framers' solution was the commerce clause, which was intended to make a free-trade zone out of the United States....
At first, the clause was closely interpreted as referring to interference by the states with the flow of commerce. In 1824, Chief Justice John Marshall's Court, in the first big case involving the commerce clause, Gibbons v. Ogden, struck down a New York law creating a steamship monopoly for traffic between New York and New Jersey. Marshall laid down the principle that for the national government to have jurisdiction, the issue must involve interstate commerce; i.e., it must involve the trafficking of goods (not manufacture) between two or more states....
After President Roosevelt threatened to pack the Court to dilute the influence of the uncooperative "nine old men," a majority of the justices took to the most expansive definition of the commerce clause like a drunk to drink. The Court blessed the secretary of agriculture's power to set minimum prices for milk sold intrastate . "The marketing of intrastate milk," wrote the Court in the 1942 Wrightwood Dairy case, "which competes with that shipped interstate would tend seriously to break down price regulation of the latter." Yes, so? What was the Court's point? Only that nothing — especially not liberty — should be permitted to get in the way of the national government's power to regulate the economy.
... Enter Roscoe Filburn, an Ohio dairy and poultry farmer, who raised a small quantity of winter wheat — some to sell, some to feed his livestock, and some to consume. In 1940, under authority of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the central government told Mr. Filburn that for the next year he would be limited to planting 11 acres of wheat and harvesting 20 bushels per acre. He harvested 12 acres over his allotment for consumption on his own property. When the government fined him, Mr. Filburn refused to pay.
Wickard v. Filburn got to the Supreme Court, and in 1942, the justices unanimously ruled against the farmer. The government claimed that if Mr. Filburn grew wheat for his own use, he would not be buying it — and that affected interstate commerce. It also argued that if the price of wheat rose, which is what the government wanted, Mr. Filburn might be tempted to sell his surplus wheat in the interstate market, thwarting the government's objective. The Supreme Court bought it.
The Court's opinion must be quoted to be believed:
[The wheat] supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market. Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce.
It is of the essence of regulation that it lays a restraining hand on the self-interest of the regulated and that advantages from the regulation commonly fall to others.