October 29, 2012
ECONOMIC LIBERTY–LESS IMPORTANT?: The Supreme Court is being asked to review a very interesting case coming out of Arizona, in which a milk producer, Sarah Farms, is challenging the constitutionality of a federal law, the Milk Regulation Equity Act of 2005, which required them to abide by a minimum price for milk (they were previously exempted from this federal minimum milk price because they were “producer-handlers” who bottled and distributed their own milk). There is evidence that the 2005 federal law was passed at the behest of large, competing milk producers, who wanted to subject Sarah Farms to federal minimum pricing. The owners of Sarah Farms assert that the federal law represents an unreasonable (and hence, unconstituitonal) interference with their business.
Under today’s jurisprudence, lawsuits alleging infringement of economic rights are presumed constitutional, and the citizen must prove that there is no rational basis for the law. As a result, laws that regulate the economy are rarely overturned.
The important question posed by the dairy farm case is this: Can citizens in an economic liberty case present evidence of government malfeasance, or must the court rubber stamp the government’s proffered “rational basis” for the law, even if it wasn’t what actually motivated its passage? In other words, is a law unconstitutional if evidence demonstrates that it was actually motivated by an anti-competitive purpose?
One would hope that the answer to that question is “yes”–that courts would not turn a blind eye to such evidence of nefarious, anti-competitive motives. But the case law on point is slim, with only one clear court opinion holding this to be the case, Craigmiles v. Giles, decided in 2002 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Fingers crossed the Supreme Court agrees to hear this important case.
H/T to Damon Root at Reason for this story.