President's weekly report — December 5, 2014

December 05, 2014 | By ROB RIVETT

Property Rights — The Public Trust Doctrine like The Blob?

PLF attorneys filed an amicus brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals in Kramer v. City of Lake Oswego—a case in which two public access activists argue that the “public trust doctrine” should be extended to create easements across dry, upland property so that the public can gain access “to . . . navigable waters throughout the State or Oregon, including the Lake, . . . regardless of ownership.”  As our blog explains, this has no basis in the law.  Instead it is a clumsy attempt to subvert the common law in order to allow public trespass across private property.

Property Rights — The Wayne Hage Saga

We filed another amicus brief in behalf of the Estate of Wayne Hage in its decades-long battle with the federal government over his grazing and water rights on his Nevada ranch.  Long before Cliven Bundy became (unfortunately) a household name, Wayne (and now his family and estate) have been seeking vindication of his rights against zealots in the federal government that are trying to (and in some regions in Nevada have largely succeeded) in driving cattle off the range.  After partially losing in the federal claims court, the feds tried again, by filing a new lawsuit in Nevada District Court. As explained in more detail in our blog post in this case, the government’s machinations in this case are truly stunning, and they even outraged a federal district judge who ruled in the Hage’s favor.  That case is now on appeal and our brief supports the Hages, arguing that the government’s actions violated the constitutional rights of the Hage family.

Environment — It takes a village to prevent a catastrophic forest fire

And a village idiot not to want to prevent one.  We filed our amicus brief in Conservation Congress v. United States Forest Service.  In this case the government is trying to thin some Northern California forest land in order to prevent the risk of a catastrophic wildfire.  But the so-called Conservation Congress has sued, saying the tree-thinning could adversely affected spotted owls.  Seriously — as if a catastrophic fire wouldn’t actually destroy their habitat, not to mention their nests, eggs, and fledglings that couldn’t fly from the flames.  For more on this case, see our blog here.

Property Rights — Changing the rules in the middle of the game

We filed our amicus brief in Potala Village Kirkland, LLC, a case where the court allowed the town to apply new zoning rules after the landowner had already applied for a shoreline development permit.  The problem is that if towns can change zoning laws in midstream, there will be no end to attempts to stop lawful projects midstream based on brand new laws.  As our blog post explains, this is not only unfair, but a violation of basic principles of vested rights and due process.  To make a fiction out of the common law rules of vesting would make property rights in Washington more illusory than real.

Equality under the law — Disparate impact (again) at the Supreme Court

For the third time the Supreme Court is considering whether “disparate impact” claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.  That is, whether statistical showings that neutral government policies have an adverse impact on minorities, even if the policies (such as enforcing building codes and the like) are not intended to have any discriminatory effect.  This week PLF attorneys filed a brief in the Court answering with a resounding “no.” Many distinguished organizations joined PLF in its brief: The Center for Equal Opportunity, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Individual Rights Foundation, Reason Foundation, Project 21, and Atlantic Legal Foundation.  For more, see our blog here.

Deadline approaching for student writing competition

The deadline for our Law Student Writing Competition is fast approaching — January 16, to be precise.  Law students are encouraged to visit our website and write on liberty.  What could be a better of way of spending the break time between finals and the start of the next semester than writing about liberty for a chance to win big prizes?