Didden And Extortion


by Timothy Sandefur

In Didden v. Port Chester, the government decided to redevelop an area of the city, and chose a developer who drew up development plans. One of the property owners, Bart Didden, owned a piece of property that he wanted to lease to CVS to build a pharmacy. The developer, on the other hand, wanted to use the land for a Walgreen's instead. So the developer told Didden that if he would pay the developer $800,000 and give him a percentage in the CVS, that he wouldn't condemn the property. Didden, of course, rejected this offensive offer, and the next day, the city condemned the land to give to the developer. (More details here.)

This outrageous conduct is the subject of a petition to the United States Supreme Court, which was filed recently. Today I filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Pacific Legal Foundation urging the Court to take the case.

What’s interesting is how this case parallels something called "exactions," which we see in a lot of cases involving building permits: government demands that a property owner give up some value to the government—a portion of the land, or sometimes outright cash—in exchange for a building permit. Now, this case didn't involve a building permit, but the issue is the same: in exchange for the right to use the property, you have to give up your property rights. That is what the Supreme Court has called "an out and out plan of extortion."

These exactions are rampant throughout America. They're causing housing prices to soar. And yet despite PLF's repeated requests, the Supreme Court has refused to take one of these cases to clarify that they do violate the Constitution. Meanwhile, we hear that the Supreme Court can't find cases to fill up its docket! Here's hoping the Court grants cert. in this case and declares once and for all that government can't use its power to regulate land use as leverage to demand money from property owners.

Here is our brief. In it, you'll find many more details about exactions and the economic impact they're having throughout the country.