Forecast for 2017: PLF will fight and win more battles for everyone’s property rights


Every new year brings new surprises, challenges, dilemmas, and opportunities. Never more so than now, as the curtain rises on 2017. A new president is set to take the oath of office. Congress has many new faces. And there is the prospect, soon, of a new Supreme Court justice to replace the late, great Antonin Scalia.

Yet in a sea of change and uncertainty, there are anchors of stability. For freedom-loving Americans, one of them is Pacific Legal Foundation, with our granite-like values and commitments. Again in 2017, as over the past 44 years, PLF remains focused on our historic mission: upholding America’s founding principles of liberty and limited government; restraining overreaching bureaucracies and politicians of every political stripe; and protecting freedom for future generations by winning lasting legal precedents in courts across the nation.

Above all, we’ll keep championing the right to own and make productive, responsible use of private property — the freedom that undergirds all others. Our fealty to this cause — our signature cause — will never change!

PLF is the “go to” defender for victims of bureaucratic abuse

Our skill as defenders of property rights has made us the “go to” protector for multitudes of average Americans who have been abused by callous public agencies and can’t afford to fight back on their own.

We stand between these victims and the public sector’s armies of attorneys with their tax-funded war chests. It is not only our clients’ legal rights that are on the line; government is often assaulting their peace of mind, their financial security, even their hopes to leave a better life for their children. In these “David vs. Goliath” battles, PLF is able to provide representation free of charge, thanks to our dedicated donors.

We are always receiving and responding to requests for help, and our docket is always teeming. Of course, our supporters know about the highest-profile property rights fight we’re now engaged in, the case of Murr v. Wisconsin and St. Croix County, which the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted. This year will bring the announcement of a date for oral argument. We are eager for that day, when PLF will stand in defense of the children of the late William Murr (a South St. Paul plumber) and his wife Dorothy, against a bureaucratic scheme that confiscated the use of a family legacy — a riverfront parcel that their late parents left them as a family investment. We are aiming for a ruling that will protect Americans nationwide from similar injustices.

But beyond our Murr case, scores of others are also moving forward, without as much spotlight but where the issues are just as compelling. Here are two that illustrate the importance of our work — for our clients and for all Americans:

A marathon battle for liberty

Gordon and Molly Beyer had a dream decades ago, when they bought a small island off the City of Marathon in the Florida Keys. They would build a home where their family could gather for generations to come.

But local bureaucrats stole their dream. Before the Beyers could move forward with their home plans, regulators changed the rules and banned any form of construction, designating the island as a bird preserve.

In return, the Beyers were offered counterfeit “compensation”: some “development credits” that in theory might let them build something on some other property at some other time.

The Beyers knew they’d been robbed of their rights, so they headed to court. The case has gone on for years, outliving Gordon and Molly. Today, their grown children are carrying on the fight, and they have turned to PLF for help. We are prepared to defend their rights all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

Government has committed a property grab, and if it can get away with “compensating” the victims with a meaningless form of reimbursement — bureaucratic funny money, you might say — then the constitutional protections for all property owners will be weakened. The poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” The same goes for property owners. If the rights of one individual or family are eroded, freedom for everyone else is less secure. That’s why PLF fights for property rights from coast to coast, and all points in between!

West Hollywood preys on property owners

At the other end of the continent, in West Hollywood, California, officials have hatched an extortion plot to fleece a couple of more than $540,000 as the price for a permit to build a small condominium project.

This staggering sum, imposed on Shelah and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer, is labeled an “affordable housing” fee. But it’s really a shakedown. The city itself has admitted that the 11-unit project doesn’t create affordable housing problems, but actually helps meet regional housing needs.

Shelah and Jonathan asked PLF for help, and we are representing them in challenging the city’s rapacious financial demand as an unconstitutional “taking.”

“The Fifth Amendment prohibits government from singling out individual property owners and exploiting them as ATMs to pay for politicians’ wish lists or for social programs that everyone should help pay for,” said PLF Principal Attorney Brian T. Hodges. “The Lehrer-Graiwers aren’t to blame for affordable housing shortages. On the contrary, their project adds to the overall stock of housing — as the city itself has acknowledged.”

The fee’s whopping size looks like outright government greed. “It equals the full construction cost of one of the larger units,” Jonathan points out. “It is also equal to 30% of the total project profit — so it is the equivalent of a 30% net income tax. Clearly, this fee cannot be justified by any calculus of fairness or constitutionality, and my wife and I are grateful for PLF’s help in fighting it.”

You — our donors — allow us to defend property rights!

In each of our cases, we represent individuals targeted by some arrogant bureaucracy; but in a larger sense we are defending everyone’s rights, and putting officials everywhere on notice. To our donors: THANK YOU for making this vital work possible! In 2017, please continue your generosity, so we can keep “rescuing liberty” from coast to coast!