Justices side with Main Street over special interests, government overreach
By Elizabeth Milito, The Washington Times, July 18, 2023
The Supreme Court’s final two weeks saw some of the most widely covered decisions in history. Yet one key part of the court’s 2022-23 term has received hardly any coverage. Look beyond the big-ticket cases, and it’s clear that the current Supreme Court stands with small businesses.
That’s good for Main Street — and for America as a whole.
Over the last year, the Supreme Court heard no less than seven cases that affect small businesses, and the justices sided with them in six. The court rolled back government overreach while empowering Main Street and mom-and-pop job creators.
At a time when small businesses are struggling from record overregulation and plummeting optimism, the Supreme Court’s actions put them on track to do what they do best: Hire, expand, and give back to their communities.
The biggest win for small businesses was surely Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, in which the Supreme Court struck down the EPA’s heavy-handed attempt to control huge swaths of land, which hurts small farms and businesses. For years, the EPA has claimed authority almost over virtually any land with water, even though federal law only talks about “navigable waterways.”
It’s an obvious power grab that made it harder for farmers and small businesses to improve or even use their land.
The Supreme Court said: No more. It restored freedom to farmers and small-business owners while getting the federal government out of the way. This decision will make it easier for them to invest in their land and contribute more to our nation’s food supply and growth.
The justices sided with small businesses again in Glacier Northwest Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The case dealt with labor unions intentionally destroying an employer’s property during a strike. That’s obviously wrong, yet unions argued that they shouldn’t be subject to state lawsuits by employers seeking restitution.
Had the Supreme Court sided with unions, it would have given them a green light to destroy as much property as possible since no one could hold them accountable. Fortunately, the justices protected employers, including the small businesses that unions often target. If a union destroys property on purpose, a small business can sue to get relief.
The list of wins for small businesses goes on. In one case, the Supreme Court made it easier for property owners (including small businesses) to sue the government. In another case, the court ruled that small businesses can’t be forced to litigate lawsuits while appealing arbitration decisions, saving them significant time and money.
In yet another case, the court eased penalties on small-business owners who have foreign accounts but don’t file the right form. They still have to follow the law, but they shouldn’t be penalized to the point of destruction.
Finally, the Supreme Court protected small businesses when governments seize their property. Federal, state and local authorities have a history of taking and selling property in response to unpaid taxes, and they keep any excess money they make in a sale.
This is blatant theft, and the Supreme Court unanimously agreed. Governments can’t take more than they’re owed under the Constitution.
The only case in which small businesses suffered was National Pork Producers Council v. Ross. In a highly fractured opinion, the Supreme Court upheld California’s pork production mandates, which are effectively a mandate for the entire country. This opens the door to more states forcing their foolish policies on small businesses in other states. Such burdens will undoubtedly kill jobs and even close small businesses in the years ahead.
Despite this loss, the small-business record at the Supreme Court was mostly wins last year. The justices deserve credit for frequently siding with Main Street over special interests and government overreach. Their actions will help small businesses rise and thrive for years to come, building up America as they’ve always done.
• Elizabeth Milito is executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center.