Supreme Court Will Hear Major Property Rights Case Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, the biggest property rights case of the current term. At issue is a Florida regulatory agency’s refusal to allow a property owner to commercially develop a small piece of land unless he first agreed to hand over 75 percent of the lot to the state for conservation purposes and also fund unrelated improvements to 50 acres of public land located several miles away. The owner refused to agree to that second requirement, which he considered to be an act of extortion by the government, and the necessary building permits were not issued.

The legal question before the Supreme Court is whether that permit condition violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires the government to pay just compensation when it takes private property for a public use. In addition, the Court will consider whether the Florida agency violated two previous Supreme Court decisions which placed strict limits on the sort of conditions land-use agencies may impose when issuing building permits.

It’s a hotly disputed case. Libertarian New York University law professor Richard Epstein, author of a seminal book on the use and abuse of the Takings Clause, has characterized the state’s actions as “grand theft real estate,” while Doug Kendall, head of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center, which filed a friend of the court brief supporting the Florida agency, has called Koontz “going away the most important takings case the Roberts Court will decide.” The justices are likely to mirror this division, with property rights supporters squaring off against those who favor granting broad deference to state regulators.

Oral argument is scheduled for 11a.m. ET on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The justices are likely to mirror this division, with property rights supporters squaring off against those who favor granting broad deference to state regulators.

    Does that mean it's Kennedy's decision?

  • robc||

    I think it does.

    Although who knows what Roberts will do.

  • Bill||

    The taking of 75% and the improvements to the unrelated land will be ruled "taxes" by Roberts.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    John Roberts has one of the best records for supporting liberty of any Chief Justice of the modern era. Heller, McDonald, Citizens United, etc.

    You guys make mountains out of molehills as usual.

  • R C Dean||

    one of the best records for supporting liberty of any Chief Justice of the modern era

    The tallest midget still shouldn't get the phat NBA contract.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Even if you are correct in your overall assessment, saying it's OK to nationalize 16% of the GDP just because you don't want to be the bad guy isn't a molehill. It is actually a mountain.

  • sarcasmic||

    fund unrelated improvements to 50 acres of public land located several miles away

    How does that even pass the straight face test? This country is going to hell.

  • Tim||

    Squirrel habitat.

  • Matrix||

    We don't own our property. We're just renting it from the government.

  • mr simple||

    Seriously, this is so unconstitutional on its face as to be risible. Any judge deciding in favor of the state should be immediately defrocked and tarred and feathered. We really should bring that practice back.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I would be shocked if any of the 4 leftists on SCOTUS vote against the regulatory agency.

  • MJGreen||

    property rights supporters squaring off against those who favor granting broad deference to state regulators.

    What is the argument in favor of granting broad deference to state regulators in a case like this? Does anyone look at this and honestly think, "Yes, the public good is being served!"?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This case, IMNSHO, was decided correctly right up until the Florida Supreme Court decided to shit in the punch bowl and defend state power against all comers.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Constitutional Accountability Center, which filed a friend of the court brief supporting the Florida agency

    In Orwell's time, Oceania was a monster. Now, it's an amateur.

    (apologies to Time After Time)

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