Event Banner

Supreme Court defends property rights, prohibits union trespassing



In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that property owners have the right to determine who is allowed on their property, upsetting union advocates and California politicians.


Quick Facts



Imagine for at least part of the day and year, you have no control over who steps foot on your property. That has been the reality in California where union advocates are legally allowed to interrupt agricultural activities for three hours each day for one-third of the year.


Two farms had enough and filed suit. Cedar Point Nursery, a strawberry farm, and Fowler Packing Co. sued for the right to have control over their own property.


Mike Fahner, owner of Cedar Point Nursery, told the Epoch Times, “In the United States, everyone has a sovereign right — or should have the sovereign right — to determine who can and cannot come onto your property. Well, we’ve been stripped of that in agriculture in the state of California.”


Fahner added, “This is the most disruptive event that can happen to someone in business. The idea that strangers can come onto your property and solicit your workforce … for three hours per day, 120 days out of the year … it’s like paralysis.”


The case made its way to the nation’s highest court where the majority agreed with the plaintiffs.


Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion in the case of Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, stated, “The right to exclude is ‘one of the most treasured’ rights of property ownership.”


Roberts went back to the origins of U.S. laws on property rights to issue his ruling. Quoting English jurist William Blackstone, he said the idea of property entails “that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.”


The Founders recognized that the protection of private property is indispensable to the promotion of individual freedom. As John Adams tersely put it, ‘property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.’ … This Court agrees, having noted that protection of property rights is ‘necessary to preserve freedom’ and ‘empowers persons to shape and to plan their own destiny in a world where governments are always eager to do so for them.’”


He added,


“Unlike a law enforcement search, no traditional background principle of property law requires the growers to admit union organizers onto their premises. The fact that a right to take access is exercised only from time to time does not make it any less a physical taking.”


Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court’s liberal wing, dissented, saying, “Technically speaking, the majority is wrong. The regulation does not appropriate anything. … It gives union organizers the right temporarily to invade a portion of the property owners’ land. … The regulation regulates (but does not appropriate) the owners’ right to exclude.”


Pacific Legal Foundation senior attorney Joshua Thompson, who argued the case, 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. Pacific Legal Foundation is proud to have represented Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company at the Supreme Court.”


The Cato Institute called the decision the “biggest Supreme Court win for property rights in a long, long time.”


“As we described in our amicus brief, the right to exclude and other ‘sticks’ in the ‘bundle’ of Anglo​American property rights have been a part of the American vision of property since Jamestown. Indeed, Magna Carta enshrined that the state could confiscate private property for the public good only (and not merely to line the king’s pockets). The Framers, fearing the majoritarian impulse as much as that of any monarch, added the fairly novel provision that eminent​domain actions be compensated, lest private parties be forced to bear costs that, as the Court put it in 1960, in ‘all fairness and justice’ should be borne by the broader public.”



As the Cato Institute explained, no public harm was done by the landowners’ refusal to permit unions to trespass on their land. There was no reason for this law other than California’s desire to chip away at the rights of property owners and to expand the power of labor unions.


The idea of U.S. property rights goes back at least to the English concept of a man’s home is his castle. The Founders extended property rights beyond the English tradition due to the unwarranted searches and seizures colonists faced under British rule.


The right to property is one of the most sacred of all our rights. If Americans are not secure in their property and don’t have control over what takes place on their property, then they have very limited freedom — if any at all.


That California’s labor rights required that unions be allowed to disrupt work for 3 hours a day, 120 days per year, as well as trespass on someone’s private property, without recourse, shows how far politicians have strayed from America’s foundational principles and common sense.


Fortunately, the Supreme Court took an originalist approach on this case, providing a critical victory for not only basic property rights but also the individual sovereignty of each American.