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Kotler v. Webb

California’s next frontier as speech police: your license plate

Jon Kotler is a First Amendment professor at the University of Southern California (USC). He is also a huge fan of the London-based Fulham Football Club and a longtime season ticket holder. Wishing to celebrate the team’s recent success, Jon applied for a personalized license plate with the letters “COYW,” which stands for “ ...

Connecticut Parents Union v. Wentzell

Race-based quotas in Connecticut schools hurt Black and Hispanic students

Each year, world-class magnet schools in Connecticut deny admission to thousands of deserving children while leaving available seats empty—because of skin color. State law requires magnet schools’ enrollment to be at least 25 percent white or Asian. This means Black and Hispanic students are turned away if their admission would push minorit ...

Minnesota Assoc. Builders and Contractors v. Minneapolis Public School District

Bulldozing unfair, illegal union-rigged construction scheme

With 75 buildings and 35,000 students, there’s plenty of construction work in the Minneapolis School District. But many hardworking Minnesotans never get a shot at a school project. In 2004, the district adopted a project labor agreement, or PLA, that favors politically powerful unions over nonunion contractors. This type of agreement forces ...

Zito v. North Carolina Coastal Resource Commission; Town of Nags Head

Fighting government’s blurred lines on property rights

All Michael and Cathy Zito wanted to do was rebuild their vacation cottage in Nags Head, North Carolina after fire destroyed it in 2016. But state and local governments denied building permits because the property is now within a no-build zone. The Zitos are left with the only vacant lot in a line of beach homes and can do little more than pitch a ...

Ostrewich v. Trautman

Your shirt or your vote: Fighting to protect free speech at the ballot box

When Jillian Ostrewich entered her Houston, Texas, polling place in 2018, she expected the only decisions she’d face would be on the ballot. Instead, an election judge gave her an ultimatum: turn her shirt inside out or forfeit her vote. Similarly, in 2018, a Dallas-area election judge ordered Tony Ortiz to turn his “MAGA” hat ins ...

Lent v. California Coastal Commission

Massive—and unconstitutional—beach access fines threaten family home

In 2016, the Lents received the California Coastal Commission’s first ever fine—$4.185 million—for blocking public access to the beach. The home sits 20 feet above the beach and, without stairs or a ramp, the public cannot safely get to the beach. The property originally included an outdoor stairway and a gate to block the large drop—bo ...

Christa McAuliffe PTO v. de Blasio

Stopping New York’s attempt to discriminate against Asian-American students

Feeling that New York City’s eight specialized high schools contain too many Asian students, Mayor Bill de Blasio is changing an admissions program to limit the ability of students to get into predominately Asian-American schools. However, his so-called racial balancing effort will squeeze out Asian students—nearly three-quarters of whom co ...

Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ranchers fight illegal critical habitat designation

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as critical habitat some 14,000 acres of land and 170 miles of streams in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico for the jumping mouse. The designation severely limits ranchers’ access to grazing land and watering spots and, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, adds $20 million in regul ...

Ballinger v. City of Oakland

Unconstitutional tenant relocation scheme hurts families, housing

When the Air Force reassigned Lyndsey and Sharon Ballinger to Washington DC, in 2015, they kept their house in Oakland, California, renting it on a month-to-month lease so they could return to it. When the couple and their two small children came home this spring, a new city law forced them to pay their tech-sector tenants $6,500—for the right to ...

Peter Stavrianoudakis, et al., v. United States Department of Fish & Wildlife and California Department of Fish & Wildlife

Falconry regulations run afoul of the Bill of Rights

Peter Stavrianoudakis is a longtime licensed falconer in California who just wants to do what people have been doing for thousands of years—raise and train falcons. But state and federal regulations have become so restrictive, he and fellow falconers around the country are left to choose between their falcons or their constitutional rights. Pacif ...

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& ...

Gundy v. United States

Congress must do its own job—make laws

The Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws, but not to delegate that power to the Executive Branch. Doing so allows unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to make rules in violation of the Non-Delegation doctrine. In Gundy, the U.S. Supreme Court will review whether Congress violated the Non-Delegation doctrine by empowering the Attorney ...

D.M. & Z.G. v. Minnesota State High School League

Discrimination dance: “Girls only” school dance team is unconstitutional

When 16-year-old Dmitri Moua discovered dancing, he found a new way to be a part of a team and build his self-confidence. But when he wanted to join his high school’s competitive dance team, he was denied because he is a boy. Dmitri’s school is in the Minnesota State High School League—whose bylaws declare competitive dance a “g ...

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 ...

Freedom Foundation v. Washington Dept. of Ecology

State agency Scrooge violates Santa’s First Amendment rights

Each year around the holidays, Washington-based Freedom Foundation sends staff members to the lobbies of state agency buildings. These staffers—dressed as Santa—hand out leaflets that explain state employees’ right to opt out of union dues. Allowed by most agencies, the Washington Department of Ecology in 2017 instead prohibited the leafl ...

Rentberry v. City of Seattle

Seattle’s unconstitutional rent-bidding law blocks innovation, free speech

Rentberry is a small San Francisco-based startup that connects landlords and renters through a rent-bidding website. The company hopes to expand its service to Seattle, however city council adopted a one-year moratorium on the service over concerns it might violate existing rental law and might inflate housing costs—despite no evidence that eithe ...

Yim v. City of Seattle

Seattle wages unconstitutional war on landlords

In a noble but misguided effort to combat racial discrimination, the City of Seattle passed a series of ordinances forbidding local landlords from choosing their own tenants. A “first in time” ordinance requires landlords to rent to the first financially-qualified tenant who applies. And the “Fair Chance Housing Ordinance” f ...

Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco

Government can’t force tenants for life

Mr. Pakdel is a small business owner in Ohio. In 2009 he bought what’s known as a “tenancy in common” (TIC) apartment in San Francisco and leased it to a residential tenant. As part of the purchase, Pakdel signed an agreement with the other owners to convert the building’s six units into condominiums. But the City of San Fra ...

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 ...

Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior

Bad rulemaking threatens good conservation

A buffalo rancher by trade, Ken Klemm also uses his 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas for conservation efforts. In fact, Klemm works with the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (KNRC) to implement a conservation plan for the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers such local collaboration for determining endangered listings und ...

Tugaw Ranches, LLC. v. U.S. Department of Interior

Illegal rulemaking threatens livelihoods

Like many western U.S. ranching families, the Picketts have worked on the same land in Idaho for many generations and have a thriving business selling naturally raised beef. And like many ranchers, their business depends on grazing permissions on federal land. But their livelihoods are threatened by rules that set aside over 65-million acres of fed ...

Linden v. South Dakota High School Activities Association

School’s “girls-only” dance team policy is a constitutional hustle

Fifteen-year-old Freddie Linden of North Sioux Falls, South Dakota can now lace up his dancing shoes as part of his school’s competitive dance team. The accomplished dancer already competes nationally on private dance teams, but the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) established competitive dance as a “female-only& ...

Chef Geoff’s v. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority

Chef Geoff fights unconstitutional “Happy Hour” gag rule

Award-winning restaurateur Chef Geoff Tracy owns three restaurants in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Only Virginia, however, restricts the way Chef Geoff advertises happy hour specials. While state law allows businesses to offer happy hour, it bans advertising happy hour prices, as well as the use of any terms other than “happy hou ...

Robinson v. Wentzell

Race-based quotas in Connecticut schools are unconstitutional and hurt Black and Hispanic students

Hartford, Connecticut, runs a number of world-class magnet schools. Their success has led to the use of a lottery to decide who can attend. But under a state-mandated racial quota, enrollment must be at least 25 percent white or Asian. This means Black and Hispanic students are turned away if their admission would push minority enrollment above 75 ...

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 ...

Vaping Litigation

The Constitution going up in vapor

Electronic nicotine delivery systems—vaping devices and e-cigarettes—first hit U.S. stores in 2007. It didn’t take long for vaping to jump from zero to a $5 billion domestic industry, as entrepreneurs quickly recognized a market hungry for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. In 2016, just as the burgeoning vaping industry was gettin ...

Waters of the United States

Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court victory for PLF and property rights

In 2015 PLF challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to stretch federal control to nearly every pond, ditch, and puddle in the nation as nothing more than an outrageous—and illegal—power grab under cover of the Clean Water Act. And under the Act, people who are harmed by such rules have six years to sue in federal di ...

Bears Ears National Monument Litigation

Defending public lands access for all

In December 2016, under cover of the Antiquities Act, President Obama unilaterally created the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument. One year later, President Trump slashed the size of the monument by 85 percent—to around 200,000 acres, freeing up more than one million acres for public use. Outerwear retailer Patagonia, environmental gr ...

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 ...

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

Victory for Free Speech! U.S. Supreme Court ruling protects political self-expression

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a polling-place dress code in Minnesota, upholding free speech rights across the nation and protecting the right of Americans to peacefully express their political views at the polls. PLF represented Minnesota voters, including Andy Cilek, who showed up at his polling place wearing a t-shirt that read “Don& ...

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 ...

Santa Barbara Association of Realtors v. City of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City Council

Santa Barbara Violates Fourth Amendment Rights of Property Owners

Under an impermissibly vague Santa Barbara ordinance, home owners wishing to sell their residential property are required to allow the city to enter and conduct unconstitutional warrantless searches prior to sale. Failure to comply with this unconstitutional condition exposes the home owner to possible criminal and civil penalties. The Fourth Amend ...

K.J. v. Minnesota State High School League

School athletics can’t turn kids away based on their sex

Kaiden Johnson loves competitive dance, and he is a valued member of the varsity dance team at Superior High School in Superior, Wisconsin. But the team primarily competes against high schools across the river in Duluth, Minnesota—and the Minnesota State High School League has a “girls only” policy for dance teams. … ...

Town of Coos Bay, Oregon v. National Marine Fisheries Service

Endangered Species Act abuse forces federal zoning control on local communities

Federal bureaucrats are twisting environmental and emergency management law to control zoning across Oregon, including its treasured coastal regions. At issue is a National Marine Fisheries Service opinion that governs FEMA’s national flood insurance program. Under the rule, local communities wanting federal flood insurance must abstain from ...

Elster v. City of Seattle, Washington

Seattle’s politician enrichment tax forces property owners to subsidize private political speech and violates the First Amendment

Representing Seattle residents and property owners, PLF sued to overturn Seattle’s ordinance mandating public campaign financing. Under the city’s “democracy voucher” program, each Seattle resident receives four $25 vouchers to support eligible candidates for local political office. The money to fund the voucher program is t ...

Elderly man in library Book Passage v. Becerra

Saving free speech one book at a time

In the wake of a First Amendment challenge by Bay Area book seller Bill Petrocelli and his renowned store, Book Passage, California has rescinded the state’s onerous “certificate of authenticity” requirement for the sale of autographed books. The regulation would have made it extremely risky, if not impossible, for stores to sell ...

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 ...

California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Fish and Game Commission

Wandering lone wolf in California triggers “endangered” listing

Based on the sighting of a lone non-native gray wolf in California, the state Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf species under the California Endangered Species Act, effective January 1, 2017. On behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and their members, PLF sued to invalidate this i ...

Cherk Family Trust v. County of Marin, California

Marin County punishes elderly property owners with unconstitutional fees

When Dart and Esther Cherk needed to supplement their retirement income, they decided to split a three-acre vacant lot in Marin County that had been in the family for six decades in order to sell both halves. As a condition of the lot split, however, the county demanded that they pay $40,000 as an “affordable housing” fee. … ...

Minerva Dairy v. Brancel

Wisconsin flunks constitutional law with artisanal butter grading

Minerva Dairy, and its President, Adam Mueller, are challenging a Wisconsin law that prevents butter makers from outside the state from selling their products in Wisconsin unless they go through an arduous and costly process of getting their butter “graded.” Grading has nothing to do with quality or safety; it is graded by taste, as det ...

Duarte Nursery v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Wheat farmer vs. the federal government: will the Constitution prevail?

John Duarte and Duarte Nursery, in rural Tehama County, California, received a cease and desist order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for engaging in normal farming activities (i.e., plowing) that purportedly affected wetlands. Duarte was not permitted any type of hearing to defend himself. … ...

Rinehart v. California

Golden State no more? California bans gold prospecting

California’s original Forty-Niners made their fortunes in gold with shovels and pans. Modern-day prospectors use a “suction dredge” – a specialized vacuum – to suck up sediment from streams, extract the gold, and then return the sediment to the stream. Federal law not only permits but encourages suction dredge mining, even on ...

Fontenot v. Hunter, Attorney General of Oklahoma

A state cannot prevent truthful marketing of art as “American Indian-made.”

Peggy Fontenot is an award-winning American Indian photographer and artist, specializing in hand-made beaded jewelry and cultural items. A member of Virginia’s Patawomeck tribe, she has made her living for 30 years traveling the country to show and sell her American Indian art. She regularly participated in Oklahoma art festivals until local, ...

Massachusetts Lobstermen v. Ross.

President Obama’s abuse of Antiquities Act declares 5,000 square miles of ocean off-limits

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to declare monuments on “land owned or controlled by the Federal government” to protect their historic or scientific value. On his way out of office, President Obama used this power to declare a 5,000 square mile area of the ocean to be the Northeast Canyons and Seamount Marine Nation ...

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 ...

Granat v. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Fighting to keep public lands open to all

Using the pretext of a transportation plan update, the U.S. Forest Service shut down thousands of previously accessible roads and trails—nearly 700 miles’ worth—within the Plumas National Forest. By forbidding any motor vehicle access, the policy prevents Amy Granat, who cannot walk unaided, from using a motorized vehicle to access vast a ...

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 ...

E.L. v. Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation

Racially discriminatory law keeps talented ten-year-old boy from staying in his charter school

As part of a decades-old desegregation lawsuit settlement in St. Louis, Missouri, the Voluntary Inderdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC) enacted a policy for city and county schools that prohibits African-American students who live in the county from transferring into magnet and charter schools within the St. Louis city limits. White students may tr ...

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke

Victory! Federal Court dismisses challenge to Congressional Review Act

PLF scored another victory against bureaucratic overreach on May 9, when the federal court in Alaska dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). At issue in this lawsuit was a regulation known as the Refuges Rule, which greatly restricted access to and use of land within Alaskan Wildlife Refuges. Con ...

Petitions to Repeal 50 C.F.R. § 17.31

Unauthorized expansion of the ESA is a “take” of landowners’ rights

PLF filed parallel petitions asking the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior to rescind an illegally-adopted regulation that extends the Endangered Species Act’s “take” prohibition to all threatened species, including those not yet listed. The ESA treats endangered and threatened species differently. The penalties ...

Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

Adverse decision in case supporting defendants’ right to a jury trial

In 2011, the federal America Invents Act authorized the formation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), a panel of three Administrative Law Judges who review the validity of patent claims. But defendants who are accused of patent infringement are increasingly asking the PTAB to use these reviews to invalidate the patent at issue, which in tu ...

Kunath v. City of Seattle

Seattle imposes arbitrary and unconstitutional tax on achievement

The Washington State Constitution prohibits the government from levying an income tax on targeted segments of the population; any income tax must be uniformly applied to all citizens. Nonetheless, Seattle enacted an income tax targeting those making in excess of $250,000 per year with a 2.25% tax rate, setting a 0% rate for everyone else. Promoted ...

Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission

Administrative concentration of judge-jury-executioner violates the Constitution

In 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Raymond Lucia and his former investment company with violating federal securities laws and regulations. He was prosecuted in an administrative enforcement action overseen by an Administrative Law Judge employed by the SEC. The ALJ permanently barred Mr. Lucia from working as an investment advi ...

California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Challenging government regulation in the dark

Representing the California Cattlemen’s Association, PLF filed a petition for writ of mandamus to have declared unlawful the department’s failure to conduct mandatory 5-year status reviews of 233 plant and animal species listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). By ...

Ross v. Acadian Seaplants Ltd.

Secure property rights are key to conservation efforts

Kenneth Ross owns coastal property on Cobscook Bay, Maine, on which rockweed grows in the intertidal area. Acadian Seaplants is licensed by the state to collect rockweed in areas “where seaweed may legally be taken.” Ross and other coastal owners sued to stop Acadian from harvesting rockweed on their property and Arcadian argues that th ...

S.S. v. Colorado River Indian Tribes

Federal law deprives American Indian children of the “best interest of the child” standard in custody determinations

Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to address the problem of unjustified removal of Indian children from their parents by “nontribal public and private agencies” and their placement in “non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” That concern is absent in a private action for termination of pare ...

Desert Water Authority & Coachella Valley Water District v. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

A federal “reservation” of groundwater implicates takings liability for users exercising state water rights

The Agua Caliente tribe resides on a federal reservation that consists of a patchwork of parcels throughout California’s Coachella Valley. The tribe runs several commercial enterprises on the land, including casinos, hotels, and the like. Under California law, the tribe shares rights to the valley’s groundwater with other cities, water ...

Robertson v. United States

Montana man unjustly convicted of violating Clean Water Act

Joe Robertson just wanted to protect his property in the Montana woods from the increasing risk of devastating fires. But when Joe built small fire protection ponds and narrow ditch near his land, the federal government criminally prosecuted and convicted him. The EPA said the ditch was a federally protected commercial waterway under the Clean Wate ...

Benedetti v. County of Marin, California

Marin County adopts unconstitutional “forced farming” plan

Marin County’s new Land Use Plan requires landowners who currently use their land for agricultural purposes to remain “actively and directly engaged” in agriculture in perpetuity. This requirement is tied to building permits within the county’s agricultural zone. For PLF client Willie Benedetti, owner of Benedetti Farms and ...

Hill v. Service Employees International Union

Liberating workers from compulsory unionism

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act deems home healthcare and childcare providers who receive state subsidies to be “public employees” and requires a union to be the providers’ exclusive representative for bargaining with (e.g., lobbying) the state over regulations and policies related to the state care-services programs. Plai ...

Women’s Surgical Center, LLC v. Reese

Georgia Constitution disallows economic protectionism

Women’s Surgical Center specializes in conducting outpatient procedures for traditionally inpatient surgeries, which benefits patients by providing less expensive and less invasive operations. Women’s Surgical wants to expand its practice, building more operating rooms and contracting with more doctors. However, Georgia’s Certific ...

Greene v. California Coastal Commission

Coastal Commission erodes property rights with unconstitutional conditions

Mark and Bella Greene challenge the California Coastal Commission’s decision to impose two conditions on the approval of a development permit to update and expand their home in Los Angeles. The first condition requires the Greenes to have a five-foot setback from their seaward property line, in conflict with Los Angeles zoning ordinances and ...

American Municipal Power v. Environmental Protection Agency

Administrative agencies cannot demand perfection

Dozens of industrial companies and trade organizations challenged two Clean Air Act-related boiler regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): the Major Boilers Rule and the Area Boilers Rule. These rules allow uninjured citizens to sue regulated companies should their boilers malfunction. Lower courts upheld the rule and the ...

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 ...

Kinderace v. City of Sammamish

Washington courts aggregate parcels to deprive property owners of compensation for regulatory takings

By means of a boundary line adjustment, Kinderace created a new 32,850 square foot parcel of which all but 83 square feet had been designated by the City of Sammamish as environmentally critical areas and buffers. The City denied Kinderace’s request for a reasonable use exception that would have allowed it to proceed with a proposed developme ...

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina; Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College

Elite universities sued over race-based discrimination against Asian applicants

Students for Fair Admissions (SFA) sued Harvard University and the University of North Carolina for discriminating against Asian-American and white students seeking admission by requiring higher grades and test scores for Asian-American and white applicants than other racial groups. These policies of racial preferences violate Title VII of the Civi ...

P.I.E., LLC v. DeSoto County

Florida property owners deserve nothing less than just compensation

Florida’s Bert J. Harris Act requires the government to compensate property owners when a regulation “inordinately burdens” private property rights. In this case, Partners in Excavation (P.I.E.) purchased a 50-acre site for $1.25 million for the purpose of excavating fill dirt to be used in their septic contracting work. The prope ...

Scott Timber Company v. Oregon Wild

Putting a thumb on the scale to benefit environmentalist plaintiffs

In environmental litigation, preliminary injunctions—orders from the court for a defendant to stop challenged activities while a case proceeds—are a way of life. Environmental plaintiffs routinely seek and obtain preliminary injunctions that can grind expensive, multi-year projects to a standstill. They do so because courts “presume” ...

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 ...

Associated Builders and Contractors-California Cooperation Committee v. Becerra

California law allows unions to shut down speech contrary to their policy preferences

California law requires contractors on public projects to pay employees the “prevailing wage” (generally equal to a union wage) through a combination of cash wages and other benefits, including making donations to “industry advancement” advocacy organizations. A new law allows only pro-union organizations to receive such don ...

Rob Roy Ramey v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Feds should jump at the chance to delist prolific mouse

On behalf of a broad coalition of sound science and property rights advocates, PLF filed a petition with the federal government to delist the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse from the Endangered Species Act. The government originally listed the mouse on the theory that it was a distinct subspecies whose numbers were declining. However, later stu ...

National Restaurant Association v. Department of Labor

The outer reaches of a statute are bookends, not blank pages

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) restricts the tipping practices of companies that  use  tips  as  a  supplement  to  reach  their  federal minimum  wage  obligations—the so-called tip credit. The FLSA forbids companies from requiring tip-earning employees—such as waiters—to share tip money with untipped staff—such as line coo ...

California Cattlemen’s Association v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Law requires consideration of human needs as well as amphibian

The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires the federal government to assess the economic impact of proposed federal rules on small businesses and government entities. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service ignored this command when it declared 1.8 million acres across 16 California counties to be untouchable “critical habitat” for the Yosem ...

Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra

California AG looks to create potential political enemies list

The California Attorney General – first Kamala Harris, now Xavier Becerra – demanded that Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization of a politically conservative bent, submit an unredacted IRS Form 990 Schedule B that contains the names and addresses of all donors who give $5,000 or more in a year. The group refused because s ...

Niang v. Carroll

Cosmetology cartel seeks to squash competition by African-style hair braiders

Missouri law requires African-style hair braiders to be licensed as a cosmetologist or barber. To obtain such a license, an applicant must pass a background check, undergo thousands of hours of training (costing thousands of dollars to attend special schools), and pass an exam. Neither the cosmetology nor barbering curricula teach African-style hai ...

Cascadia Wildlands v. Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Oregon properly withdrew special protected status for thriving wolf packs

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission removed the Canadian timber wolf subspecies of gray wolf from the state’s endangered species list in late 2015. Three environmentalist groups opposed this decision and sued to invalidate the delisting. On behalf of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association a ...

Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31

Forced subsidization of unions violates First Amendment

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act authorized public employee unions to collect “fair share” or “agency shop” fees from nonmember employees. Allowed under the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Illinois law allowed the AFSCME union to steal $535 per year from Mark Janus and every non ...

616 Croft Ave., LLC v. City of West Hollywood, California

In West Hollywood, new homes = government license to steal

Shelah and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer became victims of government extortion in West Hollywood, California over new condos. A city ordinance purports to address an affordable housing problem by demanding builders either sell a percentage of new homes at below-market rates or pay hefty “affordable housing” fees. Our clients were squeezed fo ...

T.H. v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Causation, and not deep pockets, should dictate liability

In 2007, the expectant mother of twins used a generic form of an asthma medication for the off-label purpose of preventing pre-term labor. Novartis was the former manufacturer of the brand-name version of the medication until it sold its rights to the product in 2001. The twins were diagnosed with autism in 2012, allegedly tied to the medication. T ...

Garrett v. City of New Orleans

New Orleans takes a wrecking ball to a couple’s constitutional rights

David and Lourdes Garrett had ambitious plans to renovate a dilapidated townhouse that they bought from the city of New Orleans. But their dream turned into a nightmare when—barely four months after they purchased the building—the city suddenly sent a wrecking crew and demolished it. The Garretts were stunned. They received no notice, no hearin ...

Jarreau v. South LaFourche Levee District

Just compensation includes business losses in appropriate circumstances

A Louisiana levee district condemned land containing an ongoing soil excavation business so it could use the soil for a levee. But the district shortchanged the landowner of his just compensation by paying only for the land, and not its value as a soil excavation and hauling business. Worse, the district demanded that the owner pay the district for ...

Epic Systems, Inc. v. Lewis

Victory! Supreme Court rules for freedom of contract

Under its terms of employment, Epic Systems, Inc. required that employees agree to handle any workplace dispute individually. This meant waiving any future class-action or collective arbitration—a freedom of contract protected by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Lower courts disagreed, saying the company’s one-on-one arbitration agreement ...

State of Wyoming v. Zinke

Bureau of Land Management threatens to end fracking boom

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) purports to regulate all “hydraulic fracturing” – fracking – on federal lands based on the potential impacts of fracking to underground drinking water sources, despite the fact that Congress’s Energy Policy Act lets states, not federal agencies, decide how best to regulate fracking’s p ...

Siena Corporation v. Mayor and City Council of Rockville, Maryland

Courts must not determine a law’s constitutionality based solely on government assurances of good will

Siena Corporation wanted to build a self-storage facility in Rockville, Maryland, but was thwarted when the city, at the behest of NIMBY neighbors, adopted a last-minute zoning change preventing the project. Siena sued but the district court upheld the zoning change as a “rational” exercise of the city’s police power. Siena appeal ...

National Federation of Independent Business v. Williams

Colorado evades state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Colorado voters added the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to their state constitution to ensure voter approval of all state and local tax increases. Government frequently attempts to dodge this provision by characterizing charges as “fees,” which do not require voter approval. The difference between a tax and a fee is that a fee defrays ...

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 ...

Preserve Responsible Shoreline Management (PRSM) v. City of Bainbridge Island; Olympic Stewardship Foundation (OSF) v. Growth Management Hearings Board

Coastal property rights run aground in Washington State

Coastal counties in Washington State passed “critical areas” ordinances requiring all shoreline property owners to dedicate a “buffer” zone and a strip of their beach property to the public as a mandatory condition on any new development. The counties assert this purported power under the state’s Shoreline Management A ...

American Beverage Association v. City and County of San Francisco

San Francisco’s tactics in its war on soda violate the First Amendment

A San Francisco ordinance requires advertisements related to sugar-sweetened beverages to devote 20% of the space to city-specified speech: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.” A coalition of beverage trade associ ...

Bohmker v. Oregon

Federal mining law preempts Oregon’s ban on suction-dredge mining

Oregon decided to outlaw “suction dredging,” the only profitable method of mining gold from streambed deposits. Suction dredging uses a small, lawn mower-sized motor and an underwater vacuum hose to suck up and filter gold out of streambed sediment. The federal Mining Act, however, encourages free and open exploration for valuable miner ...

St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC

“Economic development” cannot justify condemnation for a public use

The St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District condemned Violet Dock Port’s property in order to hand it over to a competitor’s business—merely because the district believed that the competitor could operate the dock better and charge more favorable rates. A Louisiana appellate court upheld the condemnation as a valid “pu ...

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 ...

Anderson v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Homeowners have a constitutional right to rent to travelers

Two Nashville ordinances banned any form of advertising short-term rentals with signage on the property, and capped the number of non-owner-occupied short-term rentals to three percent of the properties in each census tract. Rachel and P.J. Anderson periodically rent out their home via Airbnb and sued to strike down the law as violating their First ...

Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Company

The public trust doctrine is not an all-encompassing conservation easement

Along the shore of Washington’s Lake Chelan, a large fill known as “Three Fingers” has been in place since 1961. The placement of this fill was retroactively authorized by the state’s Shoreline Management Act, which grants consent and authorizes impairment of public rights of navigation, fishing, and recreation caused by fil ...

Rothe Development, Inc. v. Department of Defense

Large battle to end Small Business Act discrimination

Rothe Development, a small contracting business located in Texas, submitted the lowest bid on a Defense Department contract. But because the Small Business Act creates a preference for firms owned by socially or economically disadvantaged individuals, Rothe was not awarded the contract. Rothe sued the Defense Department and the Small Business Admin ...

Tin Cup, LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Frozen ground is not “navigable water”

Richard Schok runs Tin Cup, LLC, a small family-owned pipe fabrication business in North Pole, Alaska. The Army Corps of Engineers won’t let his growing business relocate to land containing permafrost—land that’s frozen all year long—because the agency claims permafrost is federally protected wetland. However, its permafrost designa ...

Gerawan Farming v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board

California unconstitutionally imposes mandatory arbitration for labor contracts in the agricultural sector

Gerawan Farming is a family-owned company that grows grapes and stone fruit in the San Joaquin Valley. Unique in the nation, a California statute compels agricultural employers and their employees’ unions to assent to collective bargaining agreements. Rather than being negotiated at arm’s length, these agreements’ terms are dictat ...

Center for Biological Diversity v. Otter

States are not the handmaidens of the federal government

Idaho permits the trapping of certain animals valued for their fur. The regulations require a state permit and require the traps to be checked every 72 hours so that non-targeted species are released. Hunters must notify the state whenever a trap catches a non-targeted species. A radical environmental group sued the state for alleged violation of t ...

Cedar Point Nursery v. Gould

In California, union organizers legally trespass on private property

PLF represents California farming businesses that employ around 3,000 Californians and produce millions of dollars for California’s economy in the form of oranges, table grapes, and strawberry plants. A state Agricultural Labor Relations Board regulation – the Union Access Rule – allows union organizers to go on private land to solicit su ...

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 ...

Hardie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

Ban on felon-coaches is not racial discrimination

Dominic Hardie is a high school basketball coach who is prohibited from coaching in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-sponsored tournaments because he is a convicted felon. He sued the NCAA on the theory that the felon-ban violates Title II of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in places of public accommodatio ...

Armstrong v. Kadas

Supporting school choice for all – Christians included

PLF represents parents of a child in a faith-based school and an association of Christian schools in a challenge to a regulation implementing Montana’s scholarship tax credit law. The regulation forbids religiously affiliated schools from participating in the tax credit program. PLF challenged the regulation as violating the First Amendment&# ...

Jisser v. City of Palo Alto, California

Settled: A just end to property rights shakedown in Palo Alto

The Jisser family owns the last mobile home park in super-expensive Palo Alto, California. They wanted to retire, leave the business entirely and close down the park, but the city demanded that the Jissers pay $8 million to the tenants to obtain the required permit. Representing the Jissers, PLF sued on the ground that the city’s demand was n ...

Doyle v. Taxpayers for Public Education

States may not discriminate against religious organizations

The Douglas County Board of Education’s Choice Scholarship Program offers tuition scholarships to eligible students who attend qualifying religious or non-religious private schools. The Colorado Supreme Court struck down the program as violating the Colorado constitution’s prohibition of any state support of religion. School choice prop ...

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&# ...

WildEarth Guardians v. Department of Justice

Unintentional, accidental “take” of species should not be a crime

A radical environmental group challenged the government’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. Because the ESA’s criminal penalties apply only you “knowingly” take a protected species, the government reasonably interprets this to mean that you must know that your actions will cause take and the identity of the speci ...

Johnson v. Environmental Protection Agency

PLF forces EPA to stop harassing farmer over environmentally friendly stock pond

Andy Johnson built a stock pond on his Wyoming property to provide safer, more reliable access to water for his small herd of cattle. More than the cows benefitted: The pond created wetlands, habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans the water that passes through it. Nonetheless, the federal EPA accused Johnson of violating the Clean Water Act, dem ...

Citizens for Fair REU Rates v. City of Redding, California

A tax by any other name would smell as rotten

The Redding City Council adopted a budget that included a “payment in lieu of taxes” to be paid by its municipally-owned utility to the city’s general fund. Taxpayers sued the city on the basis that the “payment” was an unconstitutional tax because it paid for general services and was enacted absent the voter approval ...

Building Industry Association Bay Area v. City of Oakland

Development projects do not cause a need for public art

An Oakland city ordinance requires anyone building a new residential or commercial project to either create a government-approved display of art or subsidize artists to create a display elsewhere in town. PLF represents the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area in a lawsuit challenging this law as violating the constitutional prohibition on ...

Brott v. United States

Jury trial sought in rails-to-trails regulatory takings case

Kevin Brott owns land in Muskegon, Michigan. In 1886, a railroad obtained a right-of-way easement across his land. When the railroad ceased operation, the easement terminated and full ownership of the land returned to the owner. The federal government, however, invoking the National Trails System Act and related regulations, nullified Brott’s ...

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Catastrophe Management Solutions

Requiring “professional” hairstyles is not intentional racial discrimination

Catastrophe Management Solutions requires its employees to be “dressed and groomed in a manner that projects a professional and businesslike image” and does not allow hairstyles that are “excessive” or an “unusual color.” An African-American woman with dreadlocks was offered a job on the condition that she change ...

Gunderson v. State of Indiana; LBLHA, LLC v. Town of Long Beach, Indiana

Grabby, grabby! Indiana takes private lakefront property for public sunbathing and volleyball

The state of Indiana and some Indiana towns bordering Lake Michigan declared privately-owned lakefront property to be public land and invited the public to engage in recreational activities on it. The property owners sued because their dry beach property, for which they own the title deed and on which they pay taxes, is not subject to the “pu ...

Nies v. Town of Emerald Isle

Supreme Court asked to reverse North Carolina’s massive beach land grab

The Town of Emerald Isle, North Carolina, passed ordinances allowing the general public and town officials to use the Nies family’s private beach land, without compensating them. State courts upheld these ordinances because they believed a 1998 state law redefined all private dry sand beaches from private land into a “public trust” ...

ConAgra Grocery Products v. California

Long-outlawed lead paint is not a public nuisance

The State of California brought a lawsuit in 2000 to abate the alleged public nuisance caused by five companies’ manufacture and sale of lead paint at a time when lead paint was legal. The trial court found three of the companies to be liable for creating a public nuisance and ordered them to pay over a billion dollars into an abatement fund. ...

People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Company/Atlantic Richfield Company

Long-outlawed lead paint is not a public nuisance

The State of California brought a lawsuit in 2000 to abate the alleged public nuisance caused by five companies’ manufacture and sale of lead paint at a time when lead paint was legal. The trial court found three of the companies to be liable for creating a public nuisance and ordered them to pay over a billion dollars into an abatement fund. ...

Murr v. Wisconsin

Wisconsin undermines property rights by “merging” separate lots

The Murr family owned two separately deeded lots that were purchased independently by their parents in the 1960s. They built a small cabin on one lot and held the other one as an investment for the future. But when the time came to sell, subsequently enacted regulations forbade the Murrs from making any productive use of the vacant lot – and with ...

Kent Recycling Services, LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Landowners win right to challenge wetland determinations in court

Kent Recycling Services wanted to establish a solid waste landfill in Louisiana. But an overzealous Corps of Engineers issued a Jurisdictional Determination claiming the property contained wetlands subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. Kent disputed this claim and sued. Lower courts rejected his lawsuit as unripe on the theory th ...

Universal Welding, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Regulatory creep: asserting jurisdiction over the land next door

The Clean Water Act gives the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over wetlands, including wetlands that are adjacent to other jurisdictional waters such as navigable rivers or lakes. The law does not give the Corps jurisdiction over wetlands that are adjacent to other wetlands. Universal Welding is a family-owned steel and pipe fabrication busine ...

Lippman v. City of Oakland

The Queen of Hearts would approve of Oakland “justice”

Oakland’s Building Services Division has a long history of mistreating the city’s property owners and engaging in systemic conflicts of interest. Thomas Lippman owns rental property in the city. The agency cited him for $10,000 worth of alleged building code violations. Lippman, who believes these citations are unwarranted, pursued an a ...

Levin v. City and County of San Francisco

San Francisco will pay for assault on landlords’ property rights

Dan and Maria Levin live in the upstairs unit of their two-story home in San Francisco, California. They would like to use the lower unit for friends and family, but a city ordinance required them to pay their tenant $118,000 to withdraw the unit from the rental market. This amount represents the difference between the tenant’s existing, rent ...

Biggs v. Betlatch

Voters demand supermajority approval for tax increases

A bare majority of the Arizona state legislature passed a law requiring the director of the state Health Care Cost Containment System – which governs the state Medicaid program – to levy an “assessment” on hospitals to pay for Medicaid expansion. Legislators who opposed the law sued to invalidate it on the grounds that the bill crea ...

Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach 1, LLC

Beachfront property owners have a constitutional right to exclude trespassers

When a beachfront property owner discontinued his practice of allowing beachgoers to park on his land for a fee, disgruntled beachgoers sued the owner to establish their “right” to trespass on the owner’s land. They based their claim on the “public trust” doctrine, which gives the state title to waters and the land ben ...

Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board

The state has no “public trust” power over groundwater

Environmentalists sued the State of California and Siskiyou County on the theory that the government’s failure to regulate groundwater violates the public trust doctrine. This doctrine traditionally applies only to navigable waters and entrusts the government with the responsibility to preserve the land and resources for productive, recreatio ...

Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

Supreme Court sports gambling decision is win for federalism

A federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) forbade states from legalizing sports gambling. When New Jersey repealed some of its prohibitions against sports gambling, several sports leagues sued, claiming the state violated PASPA, even if the state did not license or permit the activity. The Third Circuit agreed ...

Lynch v. California Coastal Commission

California erodes landowners’ right to protect their property and their ability to challenge government action

The Lynch family sought permission from the California Coastal Commission to repair a storm-damaged seawall and stairway that led from their home at the top of a bluff down to the beach. The Commission permitted the seawall restoration with a condition that they seek an additional permit in the future, and denied the permit for the stairway. To pro ...

California Sea Urchin Commission v. Combs

Separation of powers at stake in battle over agency otter rule

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked Congress for permission in the 1980s to introduce sea otters into Southern California waters, Congress agreed but required protections for lawful fishing activity. In 2012, the Service declared that they would no longer honor the fishing industry protections. On behalf of sea urchin and abalone divers, ...

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes

Landowners win right to challenge wetland determinations in court

Hawkes Company is a family-owned business in Minnesota that harvests peat moss, for landscaping. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improperly claimed jurisdiction over the property as regulated wetlands. This put Hawkes in the untenable position of (1) abandoning all use of the land at great loss; (2) spending several hundred thousand dollars to see ...

Beach and Bluff Conservancy v. City of Solana Beach

Property owners have a right to protect their homes

The City of Solana Beach enacted regulations to prohibit beachfront owners from building retention walls or other protective structures to safeguard their homes from erosion unless they agreed to grant public access to their property. The regulations also require homeowners to grant public access as a condition for a permit to repair damaged stairc ...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. Fish and Wildlife Service

Prairie dogs and property owners: Both need protection from massive federal overreach

For decades, the federal Endangered Species Act has simultaneously stifled responsible conservation of the Utah prairie dog, while barring property owners from using their own land as they wish. So PLF asked the United States Supreme Court to step in, to protect both the prairie dog and property rights of the people who share the same land. Represe ...

St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz

There’s no “off site” exception to Fifth Amendment’s takings clause

Coy A. Koontz sought to develop commercial land, most of which lies within a riparian habitat protection zone in Orange County, Florida. He applied for a dredge and fill permit with the St. Johns Water Management District, which  agreed to grant the permit only on the condition that he place a conservation easement over his land, and perform mitig ...

Bonner County v. Zinke

Déjà vu, caribou: Round three in the caribou delisting saga

For decades, citizens of Bonner County, Idaho and members of the Idaho State Snowmobile Association have endured profound negative effects from the federal government’s listing of the Southern Selkirk Mountain caribou population. The local economy depends heavily on winter recreational activities that are significantly limited by trail closur ...

Brannan v. State of Texas

Defending beachfront property rights against “rolling easements”

After a 1998 tropical storm moved the vegetation line landward of Texas beachfront homes, state officials informed the beachfront homeowners that, based on its policy of considering the public beach to extend inland to the vegetation line (wherever it goes), the homes were encroachments on a public beach and subject to removal for violating the Sta ...

Uintah County v. Zinke

Landowners attack unrestrained federal “wild lands” policy

In 2010, the Department of Interior issued an order known as the “Wild Lands policy” that directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve “wilderness characteristics” in federal areas not covered by other wilderness protection laws. BLM then imposes restrictive land use regulations on those areas and inserts itself ...

Otay Mesa Property, L.P. v. Department of the Interior

Fairy shrimp critical habitat designation violates the ESA

Three property owners in San Diego County own 57 acres that they planned to use for a new recycling center and landfill. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the property as critical habitat for the endangered Riverside fairy shrimp, the development plans were stymied. The owners challenged the designation because there’s no evi ...

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Landowners can challenge EPA compliance orders in court

Chantell and Michael Sackett received a local permit to build a modest three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot in an existing, partially built-out residential subdivision in Priest Lake, Idaho. The home poses no threat to water quality but federal EPA regulators nonetheless declared their property to contain a wetland and demanded they stop all work ...

Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.

Flocks of California gnatcatchers need no federal protection

The federal government has expanded its reach using the Endangered Species Act to cover spurious “subspecies.” The ESA does not define “subspecies” and the Fish and Wildlife Service has offered no definition of its own. Instead, it simply announces when it has determined a “subspecies” to exist and, relying on th ...

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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