President's weekly report — August 14, 2015

August 14, 2015 | By ROB RIVETT

The more you own the more government can steal?

We filed this petition for writ of certiorari in in Murr v. Wisconsin.  William Murr and his wife bought two contiguous lots along the Lake St. Croix waterfront on separate dates in 1959.  The first was titled in the family plumbing business and the Murrs built a 950 square foot home on the property, which has been used for many years by the Murrs and their four children for family vacations.  The second lot was held separately for investment purposes.  Eventually, the elder Murrs left both parcels to their children.  Now that the children would like to develop the second parcel, they are told that they cannot.  Although each parcel would be developable by itself, the County is insisting that because they two lots are owned by the same family members, the lots are considered merged and subject to the limitation of only one home per parcel.  The Wisconsin courts rejected the Murrs’ takings claim under the “relevant parcel” theory wherein owners of larger pieces of property, or involuntarily merged lots in this case, are deprived of the same rights that individual owners would have.  In other words, the government can avoid having to pay for a taking if the owner of the taken property owns other nearby property.  We’re hoping the Supreme Court will take this case to put an end to this patently unfair — and unconstitutional — evasion of the Fifth Amendment.

Confining manatee protection zones to places where the manatees actually exist

PLF filed a petition against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on behalf of William Thomas, claiming that the FWC is stepping beyond its statutory authority in its newly proposed rule regulating boat speeds in Pinellas County. Thomas, a retiree and boating enthusiast, lives in Indian Rocks Beach near two manmade basins that are connected to the intracoastal waterway. The two basins are popular for recreational boating, waterskiing, and jetskiing.  But the FWC is threatening Mr. Thomas’s recreational use, proposing to turn both into slow zones despite the fact that the basins are not known to have manatees.  For more, see our blog post here.

Using city money to pay for a union bureaucracy

An Arizona court of appeals issued this nice decision in Cheatham v. DiCiccio putting a halt to the practice by Phoenix of paying police officers to work as union bureaucrats.  We filed this amicus brief supporting our friends at the Goldwater Institute who sued to stop this “unlawful gift of public funds.”  The court found that there was no showing of any public benefit flowing from the $1.7 million the City was paying to staff the union bureaucracy with paid police officers.  For more, read our blog here.

Class actions when there is no common class

We filed this this amicus brief amicus in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphaekeo in the Supreme Court of the United States. This is the case where the Supreme Court will decide whether it is proper to certify a class of employees who claim that they were not paid for the time it takes to put on and take off clothing needed for their jobs.  The problem, however, is that the members of this class had different jobs and clothing requirements.  Moreover, some did not even suffer a legal injury. If a class action defendant is faced with multiple factual scenarios, then the defendant is at a disadvantage in trying to defend against a potential multi-million dollar class judgment.

Hearing on WOTUS

There was a hearing this week on whether the EPA should be enjoined from enforcing its new WOTUS rule, wherein dry land is transformed into wet land, and damp lands are all navigable.  While the federal district court in Georgia seemed skeptical of EPA’s arguments, the court put off an immediate decision.  For more, see our blog post here.