PLF Statement on Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District Victory
Sacramento, CA; June 25, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court today handed a victory to all property owners by ruling in favor of Pacific Legal Foundation’s client, Coy Koontz Jr., in his constitutional challenge to the heavy, unjustified demands that his family faced as a condition for a building permit.
The case is Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District.
PLF is a donor-supported, nonprofit watchdog organization that litigates nationwide for property rights. As with all our clients, PLF represents Coy Koontz, Jr., free of charge.
PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II, who argued on behalf of Mr. Koontz at the U.S. Supreme Court, issued this statement today, after the Court’s ruling was announced:
“Today’s ruling says the Fifth Amendment protects landowners from government extortion, whether the extortion is for money or any other form of property.”
“The ruling is a powerful victory for everybody’s constitutional property rights, from coast to coast,” Beard continued. “The Koontz family was challenging permit demands that were wildly excessive and had no connection to their land use proposal. Today, the Court recognized that the Koontz family was the victim of an unconstitutional taking. The Court’s message is clear: Government can’t turn the land use permitting process into an extortion machine.
“The ruling underscores that homeowners and other property owners who seek permits to make reasonable use of their property cannot be forced to surrender their rights,” Beard stated. “Regulators can’t hold permit applicants hostage with unjustified demands for land or other concessions — including, as in this case, unjustified demands for money.
“The court has recognized that money is a form of property, and the Constitution prohibits grabbing money from property owners the same way it prohibits grabbing land without compensation,” Beard said.
“The Koontz family sought permission to develop a few acres in Central Florida, and they were told they must spend up to $150,000 to improve the government’s property, miles away from the Koontz family’s land,” Beard explained. “This demand was far in excess of any impact that their land use proposal would create. They fought this injustice in the courts for nearly two decades, and today they have won a landmark decision, for themselves and all property owners. Their victory protects all permit applicants from government extortion. Everyone who values constitutional property rights owes the Koontz family a debt of gratitude for this historic victory.”
Koontz case is important for all property owners, nationwide
The late Coy Koontz, Sr., sought a development permit for three acres he owned in Orange County, Florida. Even though he offered to dedicate the rest of his property — 11 acres — for conservation, he was told he must also pay for upgrades on government land, miles away, at a cost of up to $150,000. This demand was far out of proportion to any impact that the development plans might have had on the environment.
Mr. Koontz sued, but passed away in 2000. PLF attorneys represented his son, Coy Koontz, Jr., in petitioning the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and arguing it in front of the justices.
The case is Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District. More information, including PLF’s briefs to the Supreme Court, podcasts, and videos, may be found at: www.pacificlegal.org.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is a nonprofit, public interest watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts nationwide.
The Koontz case is PLF’s eighth direct-representation case at the U.S. Supreme Court for liberty and limited government. Last year, PLF won Sackett v. EPA at the High Court, in which the justices unanimously held that property owners have a right to challenge federal “wetlands compliance orders” in court.