Cases

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Timbs v. Indiana

Excessive Fines Clause applies to all governments

PLF has joined a crucial case brought by our allies at Institute for Justice to address a situation faced by many PLF clients—fines and forfeitures that far outweigh their alleged offenses. Tyson Timbs argues in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court that such disproportionate punishments by state and local governments violate the Eighth Amendment& ...

Pacetta, LLC v. The Town of Ponce Inlet

Asking the Supreme Court to revive property rights protections

Urged by the town of Ponce Inlet, Florida, Lyder and Simone Johnson bought a number of land parcels and planned a new development through their business, Pacetta, LLC. Town leaders wanted the development so badly, they began revamping the town’s comprehensive land use plan, which would not have allowed the project at the time. But after an el ...

Taylor v. Polhill, et al

Florida’s outdated licensing robs hearing, livelihoods

In Florida, you need a license to sell hearing aids. Dan Taylor of Melbourne, Florida, gave up his license after 30 years, because Florida’s outdated regulations were made for older models, not the updated, technologically sophisticated models he and his customers prefer. In a federal lawsuit on behalf of Dan, PLF argues that Florida’s ...

Nemhauser v. City of Mount Dora

City apologizes after violating First Amendment rights

What started as artistic expression in Mount Dora, Florida, escalated into a bureaucratic nightmare for Nancy Nemhauser and Lubomir Jastrzebski. When the couple painted a van Gogh-style “The Starry Night” mural on a wall outside their house, the city declared the art “graffiti” because it didn’t match the color of the ...

Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland County

Michigan County Steals House for $8 Debt

In 2014, Oakland County, Michigan foreclosed on a home owned by Uri Rafaeli’s business—Rafaeli, LLC—over an $8.41 tax debt. The County sold the property for $24,500, and kept profits. Ditto for Andre Ohanessian, when the County seized and sold his property for $82,000, and pocketed every penny left over from the $6,000 tax debt. While mos ...

Coastal Rights Coalition v. California Coastal Commission

California coastal homeowners at risk by Coastal Commission’s illegal seawall policy

When coastal property owners seek permits for new residential development, the California Coastal Commission requires them to agree never to build a seawall to protect the structure from storms and erosion. This policy was imposed by fiat, without public notice, hearings, and opportunity for public comment, as required by the California Administra ...

Knick v. Scott Township Pennsylvania

Supreme Court considers second-class treatment of property rights

In 2013, government agents forced Rose Knick to allow public access to a suspected gravesite on her farmland. Rose sued over the unconstitutional property taking. But a federal court refused to hear her federal claim citing the 1985 Supreme Court decision Williamson County. Rose has asked the Court to overturn this precedent so property rights are ...

American Federation of Aviculture v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Thriving golden parakeets no longer need Endangered Species Act protection

Thanks to the efforts of private breeders, the golden parakeet is no longer threatened with extinction. Although the federal government acknowledges the bird’s tenfold increase in numbers, it has refused to comply with a law that requires it to make a final decision to delist or downlist the parakeet within 12 months of that finding. On behal ...

Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Government-sanctioned private land grabs over absent animals are illegal

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its fall term on October 1, 2018, with the famous “frog case” out of Louisiana. That’s where federal regulators declared more than 1,500 acres of private land as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog—a species not seen in the state for more than 50 years. PLF client Edward Poitevent owns 95 p ...

Ganson v. City of Marathon, Florida

Florida decides couple’s land is for the birds

The Beyer family owns a 9-acre island off the Florida coast that was reclassified from a general zoning designation to a bird rookery that permitted no use of the property other than temporary camping. Instead of offering compensation for this taking of property, as required by the Fifth Amendment, the city offered the Beyers only transferable deve ...

Krause v. School Board of Indian River County, Florida

Florida student teaches school a lesson about free speech

In May of his junior year at Vero Beach High School, J.P. Krause was on the verge of winning the senior class president election when he gave an impromptu campaign speech in his AP U.S. History class, with his teacher’s permission. The 90-second humorous speech skewered some of the tropes of the Trump campaign – “my opponent will rais ...

Marquette County Road Commission v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA can’t escape judicial review of decision to veto a local road

Marquette County, Michigan, is home to the nation’s only nickel mine, and though the nearest refinery is 22 miles away, the only route available is three times as long and goes through the city of Marquette and a university campus. The Marquette County Road Commission, led by Jim Iwanicki (pictured), proposed a new direct road that would shav ...

Chmielewski v. City of St. Pete Beach

City cannot invite the public to make itself at home on private property

The Chmielewski family owns beachfront property in the City of St. Pete Beach, Florida. The city owns an arts center inland and adjacent to the Chmielewski’s home. After the city built a trail and encouraged the public to traverse the Chmielewski’s land to access their private beach, the family sued the city for effecting a taking witho ...

Casino Reinvestment Development Authority v. Birnbaum

Atlantic City should lose its gamble to take private property rights

Charlie Birnbaum’s family lives in Atlantic City. A casino coveted their land so the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) decided to take the Birnbaums’ home and give it to the casino, ostensibly to benefit the state’s economy. Birnbaum sued because giving his property to a privately-owned casino is not a le ...

Wayside Church v. Van Buren County, Michigan

Michigan County takes and sells properties with tax debts, keeps proceeds

When Michigan property owners fall behind on their taxes, the state allows counties to seize and sell the land, and keep all sale proceeds–no matter how small the tax debt or how valuable the property. Van Buren County reaped a major windfall after selling three properties with relatively small tax debts, including a church. PLF believes local go ...

Beach Group Investments, LLC v. Florida Deptartment of Environmental Protection

Florida court demands futile hoop-jumping before seeking redress for a taking

Beach Group Investments bought beachfront land and obtained local permits to build a condominium complex. Subsequently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection changed its setback requirements and, as a result, rejected Beach Group’s permit application. A trial court held that the inability to build the condo project caused a 96% l ...

Goodwin v. Walton County, Florida

New Florida law ends unconstitutional land grab

Under a new Florida law, signed on March 23, 2018, Walton County, Florida, can no longer try to steal free access to private property. County officials had enacted an ordinance banning signs on privately owned beaches, in hopes of allowing the public to trespass on private beaches without having to pay for the use. County officials threatened PLF c ...

School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida

Unions attack–but can’t kill–Florida charter schools

The School Board of Palm Beach County illegally denied South Palm Beach Charter School’s application to start a new charter school, claiming that the school lacks “innovation” and fails to fulfill the state charter statute’s requirement that charter schools “encourage the use of innovative learning methods.” The ...

GolfRock, LLC v. Lee County, Florida

Government stall tactics undermine constitutional takings doctrine

GolfRock sought a permit to mine its land in Lee County in 2005. Several years of government stalling and five application supplements later, the County changed the rules—the local comprehensive plan—to preclude mining on GolfRock’s land. Even after banning mining on the property, the County refused to reach a final decision on GolfRock&# ...

Gunnison Sage-Grouse Endangered Species Act Litigation

Drawing a line on federal power under the Endangered Species Act

Colorado and two if its counties challenged the listing of the Gunnison sage-grouse as “threatened” for lack of evidence, and challenged the designation of critical habitat as overbroad. For years, the affected states, counties, and landowners partnered to conserve the species while maintaining economic viability but the federal governm ...

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