Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SCOTUS Opines In Favor Of Individual Property Rights

In a case of alleged regulatory overreach, over-taxation, and eminent domain against a Florida landowner, The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the land owner.

The 5-4 split decision fell along party lines. The "conservative" justices ruled in favor of individual rights while the "liberal" justices voted in favor of government power to seize, tax, and regulate private property.

Koontz vs. St. John's River Water Management District surrounded some basic individual rights concerns. Koontz had applied for a "land use permit" in order to use their privately owned land. The permit was denied. The River Management District attempted to tax Koontz in both land and monies to pay for improvements on public lands that border the Koontz property.

Several lower courts ruled in favor of Koontz. However, the Florida Supreme Court reversed these rulings. The case was then appealed to the US Supreme Court.


The trial court found the District’s actions unlawful because they failed the requirements of Nollan v.California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825, and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U. S. 374. Those cases held that the government may not condition the approval of a land-use permit on the owner’s relinquishment of a portion of his property unless there is a nexus and rough proportionality between the government’s demand and the effects of the proposed land use. The District Court of Appeal affirmed, but the State Supreme Court reversed...

The Court held that a government may not seize lands as a form of taxation or processing fee, especially when denying a permit. The claim is that the land confiscation did not meet the necessity for an eminent domain claim. Using taxation as a means to seize lands for eminent domain purposes is unconstitutional.


Held:
1. The government’s demand for property from a land-use permit applicant must satisfy the Nollan/Dolan requirements even when it denies the permit.
2.The government’s demand for property from a land-use permit applicant must satisfy the Nollan/Dolan requirements even when its demand is for money.

In an exhaustive opinion, the US Supreme Court reversed the Florida Court's ruling. Justice Alito delivered the majority opinion.

Mindful of the special vulnerability of land-use permit applicants to extortionate demands for money, we do so again today.
* * *

We hold that the government’s demand for property from a land-use permit applicant must satisfy the requirements of Nollan and Dolan even when the government denies the permit and even when its demand is for money. The Court expresses no view on the merits of petitioner’s claim that respondent’s actions here failed to comply with the principles set forth in this opinion and those two cases. The Florida Supreme Court’s judgment is reversed, and this case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.