Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Supreme Court Gives Land Owners Freedom to Sue on Federal Level
GV-Wire
By Jody Murray
Published 5 years ago on
June 26, 2019

Share

A little family cemetery in rural Pennsylvania triggered a legal earthquake that might be felt in land disputes and coastal-access battles up and down California.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that property owners can go straight to federal court to fight claims that local or state government prevented them from using their land as they see fit. The decision overturned a long-held precedent that trapped property owners in what Chief Justice John Roberts described as a Catch-22.

Under existing law property owners couldn’t go to federal court until all legal options on the state level had been exhausted. Now those owners can take their claims straight to the federal court system, which is considered friendly than the state courts for such claims.
The vote was tight — 5-4 — with the conservative faction of the court on the winning side and the liberal justices filing dissenting opinions.
In essence, under existing law property owners couldn’t go to federal court until all legal options on the state level had been exhausted. Now those owners can take their claims straight to the federal court system, which is considered friendly than the state courts for such claims.
Under the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, property owners must receive “just compensation” when a government takes land for public use. Based on a 1985 decision (Williamson County Planning Commission vs. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City), owners couldn’t appeal to the feds until all remedies were exhausted or a federal claim would be “premature.”

A Little Cemetery Set it All in Motion

Writing for the majority, Roberts said the property owner “cannot go to federal court without going to state court first; but if he goes to state court and loses, his claim will be barred in federal court. The federal claim dies aborning.” The Catch-22.
The Pennsylvania case that set this all in motion began in 2012, when Scott Township, about 15 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh, passed an ordinance that allowed officials to enter “any property” to determine if the land is actually a cemetery. A code enforcement officer subsequently visited farmland owned by Rose Mary Knick and determined that several stones on the property were grave markers.
That meant her land, which had been in her family for half a century, was a cemetery under local ordinance. And cemeteries had to be “kept open and accessible to the general public” during the day. If Knick didn’t provide public acccess, she faced daily fines up to $600.
Knick sued the township, saying it was performing an “uncompensated taking” that violated her Fifth Amendment rights. The township withdrew its notice on the property. A federal district court and appellate sided with the township, saying Knick hadn’t proved harm on the state court level.

Dissenting Justices Say it’s a Bad Predecent

The Supreme Court, in its Friday ruling, disagreed. And the majority was more than ready to bury the precedent set in ’85. “Williamson County was not just wrong,” Roberts wrote. “Its reasoning was exceptionally ill-founded and conflicted with much of our takings jurisprudence.”
The court’s liberal justices, all of whom voted against Knick, railed about the overturning of precedent. Justice Elena Kagan, in a dissenting opinion, said the ruling “rejects far more than a single decision in 1985,” which she said “was rooted in an understanding of the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause stretching back to the 1980s.”
The consequence of the court’s ruling will be “to channel a mass of quintessentially local cases involving complex state-law issues into federal courts,” Kagan wrote.
Pacific Legal Foundation, which brought Knick’s case to the nation’s highest court, said the decision was “a long time coming.”
“Thanks to Rose’s courage and the Supreme Court’s careful examination of the issue,” Pacific Legal Foundation said in a statement, “property owners now have access to the federal courts when they seek to protect their federal property rights from over-reaching government.”

DON'T MISS

Boeing’s Financial Woes Continue, While Families of Crash Victims Urge US to Prosecute

DON'T MISS

Police Tangle With Students in Texas and California as Wave of Campus Protest Against Gaza War Grows

DON'T MISS

Meet the Valley Republican Predicting a November Win Over Esmeralda Soria

DON'T MISS

Wired Wednesday: Construction Workers on 2018 Fresno Unified Project Still Not Paid

DON'T MISS

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

DON'T MISS

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

DON'T MISS

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

DON'T MISS

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

DON'T MISS

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

DON'T MISS

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

UP NEXT

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

UP NEXT

Ancestry Website to Catalogue Names of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II

UP NEXT

Sacramento Bee Accused of Mangling the Facts About Fish Caught in Pumps

UP NEXT

Google Fires More Workers Who Protested Its Deal With Israel

UP NEXT

CA Lawmakers Reject Bill Cracking Down on Utilities Spending Customers’ Money

UP NEXT

What Do Supreme Court Justices Say About Homelessness?

UP NEXT

Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson Pledged $10M for Maui Wildfire Survivors. They Gave Much More.

UP NEXT

Did Fresno Unified’s Biggest Contractor Not Pay Its Workers? Company Still Gets Millions After Civil Penalty

UP NEXT

Work Starts on Bullet Train Line From Las Vegas to LA

UP NEXT

Will CA Lawmakers Crack Down on Spending by Utility Companies?

Wired Wednesday: Construction Workers on 2018 Fresno Unified Project Still Not Paid

3 hours ago

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

3 hours ago

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

5 hours ago

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

Local Education /

6 hours ago

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

6 hours ago

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

7 hours ago

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

7 hours ago

About 1 in 4 US Adults Over 50 Say They Expect to Never Retire, an AARP Study Finds

8 hours ago

Biden Signs a $95 Billion War Aid Measure With Assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

8 hours ago

Ancestry Website to Catalogue Names of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II

9 hours ago

Boeing’s Financial Woes Continue, While Families of Crash Victims Urge US to Prosecute

Boeing said Wednesday that it lost $355 million on falling revenue in the first quarter, another sign of the crisis gripping the aircraft ma...

2 hours ago

2 hours ago

Boeing’s Financial Woes Continue, While Families of Crash Victims Urge US to Prosecute

2 hours ago

Police Tangle With Students in Texas and California as Wave of Campus Protest Against Gaza War Grows

CA District 27 Assembly candidate Joanna Garcia Rose
2 hours ago

Meet the Valley Republican Predicting a November Win Over Esmeralda Soria

3 hours ago

Wired Wednesday: Construction Workers on 2018 Fresno Unified Project Still Not Paid

3 hours ago

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

5 hours ago

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

Local Education /
6 hours ago

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

6 hours ago

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend