Full compensation for seized property was the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision to rule the USDA’s raisin management program in California unconstitutional. The supply management enacted in 1949, and based on a 1937 USDA program had farmer’s giving a raisin tithe to the government to ensure a stable price for the crop. Marvin and Laura Horne said enough in 2003, and have been waging a battle against the program and the government’s ability to demand a portion of their raisin crop ever since. They won the minds of the Supreme Court, with some skirmishes between Justice Thomas and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. With one exception, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented, saying that the supply management program did not deprive them of all their property rights, and only limited their income.

As a Bronx-raised Nuyorican, it is perhaps unlikely that Sotomayor saw herself as a direct companion in arms of Cesar Chavez and farm worker activism. But as a student activist who fought and denounced her way up the student ladder in Princeton and Yale in the 70’s, she surely saw herself and sees herself, alongside Cesar Chavez, as a pioneer for Hispanic student rights and Hispanic rights in general. It is safe to say that Sotomayor is far from being a libertarian, and despite receiving reviews of her judicial rulings that characterize her rulings as neutral and non-ideological, it is clear that she has no problem with state intervention. Be that affirmative action – of which she was practically a case study in terms of latino students in her years at university – or the conditioning of property rights by a an all-present state.

Aside from wondering how stable raisin prices are of any importance today in a connected global world where agricultural products move from continent to continent, Sotomayor’s stance on property rights is unsettling. Her view seems to be: the Hornes should be grateful the government didn’t take more of their crop. What counts is civil rights, and it’s corollary of activism, rather than property rights. So the ghost of Cesar Chavez is indeed near and dear to Justice Sotomayor’s heart and mind. And that’s hardly surprising.