Supreme Court

Clarence Thomas Benchslaps the Federal Government in a Property Rights Case

“Our role is to enforce the Takings Clause as written.”

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Property rights advocates scored a significant victory today when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1985 precedent which had forced property owners whose land is taken by the government to seek just compensation in state court before they are permitted to file a constitutional case in federal court. According to the 5–4 majority opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts in Knick v. Township of Scott, "the state-litigation requirement imposes an unjustifiable burden on takings plaintiffs, conflicts with the rest of our takings jurisprudence, and must be overruled. A property owner has an actionable Fifth Amendment takings claim when the government takes his property without paying for it."

The case centered on a local Pennsylvania ordinance requiring that all cemeteries "be kept open and accessible to the general public during daylight hours." In 2013, Scott Township sought to enforce this ordinance against Rose Mary Knick, whose property, as the Court described it, "includes a small graveyard where the ancestors of Knick's neighbors are allegedly buried. Such family cemeteries are fairly common in Pennsylvania, where 'backyard burials' have long been permitted."

Knick objected to this government taking of her property. But under the Supreme Court's 1985 precedent in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, she was barred from going straight to federal court. "If a State provides an adequate procedure for seeking just compensation," Williamson County said, "the property owner cannot claim a violation of the Just Compensation Clause until it has used the [state] procedure and been denied just compensation." In its ruling today on behalf of Knick, the Supreme Court struck down Williamson County.

In addition to being a victory for property owners, Knick v. Township of Scott is also notable for featuring some sharp words from Justice Clarence Thomas directed at the federal government. As Thomas noted in a concurring opinion, the U.S. solicitor general filed an amicus brief in the case which argued that "the failure to provide contemporaneous compensation for a taking does not violate the Fifth Amendment if the government has provided an adequate mechanism for obtaining just compensation."

What's wrong with that? Here is a sample of Thomas' rather pointed rebuke to the federal government:

The United States…urges us not to enforce the Takings Clause as written. It worries that requiring payment to accompany a taking would allow courts to enjoin or invalidate broad regulatory programs "merely" because the program takes property without paying for it. According to the United States, "there is a 'nearly infinite variety of ways in which government actions or regulations can affect property interests,' and it ought to be good enough that the government "implicitly promises to pay compensation for any taking" if a property owner successfully sues the government in court. Government officials, the United States contends, should be able to implement regulatory programs "without fear" of injunction or invalidation under the Takings Clause, "even when" the program is so far reaching that the officials "cannot determine whether a taking will occur." [Citations omitted.]

In short, Thomas exhibited exactly zero patience towards what he called the federal government's "sue me" stance. If Knick v. Township of Scott "makes some regulatory programs 'unworkable in practice,'" Thomas declared, "so be it—our role is to enforce the Takings Clause as written."

NEXT: Supreme Court Overrules Precedent that Created "Catch-22" for Property Owners Attempting to Bring Takings Cases in Federal Court

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86 responses to “Clarence Thomas Benchslaps the Federal Government in a Property Rights Case

  1. One issue on which Trump is bad – predictably he came out in favor of broad taking powers. Good thing he lost this one, thanks in part to his own justices.

    (I just guessed that last part, now I’ll go confirm it)

    1. Lucky guess:

      “ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which THOMAS, ALITO, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. “

      1. Boy those names were sure a surprise! /sarc

        Kagan, RBG, Breyer, and Sotomayor working together again to try and protect extrajudicial and extra-legislative workings through without review or response. Just what the EPA wants.

        1. Lifelong marxists have nothing but disdain for the concept of private property ownership.

        2. I am genuinely surprised Alito and somewhat Roberts got on board.

          1. agreed. Kavanaugh as well. It wouldn’t have surprised me in the least if those three went the other way. Glad they didn’t though.

        3. RBG needs to keel over after delivering this sort of ‘decision’.

      2. Those who favor government empowerment: KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. “

        Those not so much: “ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which THOMAS, ALITO, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined.

        The tide seems to be turning…just, one, more.

        1. RBG countdown continues …

          1. among those who do not recognize the likelihood — and consequences — of enlargement of the Court.

            1. So desperate

            2. You’re a useless cunt who should be beaten to death with a baseball bat.

              1. That’s a waste of a good baseball bat. I’d recommend a rusty tire iron, just be sure to wear gloves.

            3. Poor RAK. Still begging for the Progressive Plantation.
              Carry on clinger!

      3. of course the communist wing of the court dissented.

        1. Communists vs. slack-jawed bigots . . . should be a good contest. Especially if you like the trajectory of American progress throughout our lifetimes.

          1. Blow your fucking brains out and die you steaming pile of shit.

    2. Thank you, President Trump for Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

      1. I’m still not convinced on Kavanaugh but he got this one right. Gorsuch? Hell Yes!

        1. Agree- Kavanaugh still needs to prove himself to not be another Roberts…

          1. I dont trust kavanaugh at all.

            I’m still mad I was forced to defend him. Democrats are such pieces if excrement.

      2. Get an education, KevinP. Start with standard English, focusing on punctuation. Backwater religious schooling does not count (in general, avoid campuses controlled by conservatives, which tend to be fourth-tier or unranked institutions).

        Good luck, clinger.

        1. Blow your fucking brains out and die you useless turd.

        2. Learn something that isn’t leftist drivel, double-digit IQ slug.

    3. (I just guessed that last part, now I’ll go confirm it)

      Eddy, you’re forgetting the first rule of libertarianism; both sides!

      Why do you love military spending?

    4. Trump haters seem to focus on what trump says and not what he does. What actions has trump actually taken to reduce property rights?

      1. Taxes on imports…

      2. Eminent domain, you fucking muppet.

      3. Eminent domain.

        Tariffs.

    5. Trump haters seem to focus on what trump says and not what he does. What actions has trump actually taken to reduce property rights?

  2. Kudos to Justice Thomas: best SCOTUS justice ever. We need more people like him.

    Regarding the Solicitor General’s statement that “the failure to provide contemporaneous compensation for a taking does not violate the Fifth Amendment if the government has provided an adequate mechanism for obtaining just compensation”, isn’t this problematic? First of all, what is “adequate”? Does adequate mean one has to spend tens of thousands on lawyers to obtain compensation, perhaps more than the property is worth? And second, if there is an “adequate mechanism” but the government has failed “to provide contemporaneous compensation for a taking” then how is the mechanism adequate, and why should the person have to sue in the first place? What that says to me, is the government can take what it wants.

    1. “isn’t this problematic?”

      Yes, if “problematic” means “outright robbery.”

      “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” ought to mean just that.

      Did you take the property? Yes? But you didn’t pay compensation when you took the property. Then you took the property without just compensation.

      “But they can sue us!”

      No, you sue them to get the property, and the court will effect the transfer only after you’ve handed over the money.

      1. Remember that when they say they aren’t here to take anything from you they mean so with seriousness. In their mind it was never yours.

        1. The would be privilege, not ownership, freedom, liberty, or rights.

    2. Yes, the implication is that suing the government for your compensation is the normal procedure rather than an extraordinary action to correct the government’s improper behavior.

    3. >>>best SCOTUS justice ever

      word.

      1. Gorsuch > Thomas

        1. but at least it’s a horse race. the others are WAY behind both of these two men.

        2. They’re not dead yet!

          1. RGB is just sleeping…

            1. RBG not RGB. An edit button, my kingdom for an edit button.

        3. Thomas was around considerably longer + Thomas had his own Kavanaugh confirmation drama featuring Anita Hill & pubic hair on a can of Coke.

          I’m sure there are aspects where the ‘greater than’ sign is valid, but overall Thomas is an accomplished Supreme while Gorsuch is at the start of his career among the Nazgûl. Admittedly a promising start, but a start nevertheless.

        4. Gorsuch hasn’t had 30 years to flip. Reserving judgment.

          1. So far the best thing about Gorsuch is that “flipping” wouldn’t seem to apply to him. He calls it like he sees it, not just blindly side with his TEAM. There’s nothing to “flip” if you haven’t chosen sides in the first place.

            1. I dont see Gorsuch turning either. He seems to have principles and pride in his ability to do his job as intended. As does Thomas.

            2. makes sense.

    4. any of us trying that method of taking at the car dealer, greengrocer, hardware store, or anywhere else come back and tell us how that is going now you’re behind bars for theft. Make certain you record the response of the owner of that property you just took when you give them the Japanese response to their complaint….
      “Sosumi” But the corrupt faction of the would be lawmakers in black nighties didn’t like that.

      I DO like this new term “banchslapped”/ Polite enough to repeat in public, graphic enough to hit hard, and funny enough to get a good chuckle at the expense of those selling our rights down the river.

      ‘Benchslapped, indeed. Need boatloads more of it.

  3. Can The Edge takes his case to the Feds now that the various government agencies in California have in effect taken his 151 acres in Malibu?

      1. WWF Wrestler?
        or
        U2 guitarist?

    1. Maybe he can sue to get his talent back. He certainly lost it prior to U2.

    2. “I’m very happy that the Supreme Court decided not to review the case because it brings a definitive end to this terrible project which would have caused devastating damage,” Dean Wallraff, a lawyer for the pro-environment Sierra Club said in an interview.

      Shit, did Bono consult on this gig? I feel some serious intersectional wires are crossed here.

  4. Suppose (though this would never happen) a municipality goes bankrupt after taking someone’s property, and before they can sue and collect their compensation. That’s one of many reasons why the govt should pay the money up front.

    1. Vallejo, or Stockton, California?

  5. Government officials, the United States contends, should be able to implement regulatory programs “without fear” of injunction or invalidation under the Takings Clause, “even when” the program is so far reaching that the officials “cannot determine whether a taking will occur.”

    Bah. The fedgov should always fear to fuck over its citizens.

  6. Another SCOTUS article which means I have to ask for a recent dated picture of RBG (impossible because she’s been dead since November)

    1. She’s only sleeping.

      1. They nailed her to the chair.

  7. Is it just me, or does that photo of Thomas remind you of Grumpy Cat?

    1. Now I can’t unsee it.

  8. So this will be a precedent when California et al. enact their next “large-capacity magazine” ban, or “aassault rifle” ban?

  9. Didn’t see anything, but I’d be surprised if IJ wasn’t involved with this.

  10. Good news. This is the next agenda item on the lefts list. Medicare for all is nothing compared to the contempt for private physical property rights, especially land ownership and single families. Housing as a human right. This is Berlin freezing rent for five years, the EU in 2019:
    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/06/berlin-rent-freeze-senate-vote-affordable-housing/592051/

  11. Who owns the bodies in this lady’s graveyard? I believe Penna. law says you’ve abandoned rights to property occupied by squatters if you don’t assert such rights within 17 years. So descendants who finally figure out where great great grandma was interred 100 years ago are SOL if the graveyard has been abandoned for 17 years.
    Still, a dick move if the current owner doesn’t allow a mourner to come on the property at least once a year (say on Mothers Day or Memorial Day or whatever.)

    1. My property, my dickishness.

      1. Deplorable, anti-social, worthless malcontents have rights, too!

        1. And we will defend your rights.

        2. Yes you do, cretin. We’ll defend your rights while you’d push us onto traincars to the ovens. That’s because we’re better than you, fucking piece of shit.

    2. The current owner probably would.

      but

      a) likely those people are long dead and have no mourners.

      b) the issue isn’t that the owner won’t let mourners come, its that the government is forcing her to do so.

      1. or rather – requires it to remain accessible to the general public. Which means people other than mourners can come trash it.

  12. Whoever wrote that headline needs a raise.

    1. Benchslap? More like the hollow sound of one clinger clapping. No one joined Justice Thomas’ opinion. He couldn’t even get a pity concurrence.

      1. Progress will leave behind the white rural clingers like Clarence Thomas in favor of better-educated people who graduated from our best universities.

        Soon, our betters will reclaim the law from these reactionaries and again make it more difficult for property owners to get compensation when the government takes their property.

        Lone dissents are the sign of a bitter rural clinger, like the first John Marshal Harlan dissenting in Plessy v. Ferguson.

        1. Do you expect your side to become competitive in the culture war during your lifetime, Eddy?

          1. I won’t pretend to know the future like you do, and it’s too bad you don’t have the courage of your own opinions unless you can first convince yourself you’re part of a victorious mob.

            Assuming you manage to make it more difficult for property owners to get compensation from the government, what “progress” will you have achieved? How will you have benefited humanity?

            1. Just to be clear, your idea of “progress” is to take issues of constitutional rights out of the hands of the federal courts and put them in the hands of the state courts.

              When your idea of progress begins to resemble the ideas of Theodore Bilbo, maybe you should reflect that you may not be as “progressive” as you think, at least not in the positive connotation of the term “progressive.”

          2. Do you expect to ever not become a mendacious piece of shit during your lifetime? I didn’t think so.

  13. NOW is it clear why it was so important to the looter intelligentzia to lie to keep this guy off the Suprema Corte?

  14. Good on the SCOTUS…

    Statists gotta state. Glad they got talkin’ to.

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  17. 5 to 4 confusion on double jeopardy? If there is a takings, it can’t be done twice and making a victim seek process in both state and federal is yet another instance of process being punishment – for those wanting to exercise their rights. The country is almost finished.

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