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Federal lawsuit filed to protect private ranch property Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association v. Xavier Becerra

Ranch owners fight legislation that gives the government unfettered access to private, sensitive coastal land and potentially punishes owners for defending their way of life

Hollister Ranch, California, is widely known for its 150 years as a working cattle ranch and for its biologically significant coastal habitat spread across miles of shoreline downcoast of California’s Point Conception. Over the years, the ranch has carefully restricted development and activity on its 14,400 acres in order to protect the exist ...

Goleta Santa Barbara Wall v. Cal. Coastal Commission

Family challenges government’s arbitrary, unlawful permit conditions

In 2018, the Wall family wanted to build a swimming pool next to their home on their property in Hollister Ranch, California. Like all land owners within the 14,500-acre, century-old working cattle ranch, the Walls needed a permit. Santa Barbara County approved the project; however, the California Coastal Commission denied the permit. The Commissio ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania

Supreme Court affirms that property rights are among Americans' most important constitutional 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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&# ...

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 ...

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” ...

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 ...

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 $12,000 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's assault on landlords’ property rights stopped

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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