President's weekly report — October 24, 2014

October 24, 2014 | By ROB RIVETT

Property Rights – Victory in San Francisco!

In Levin v. City and County of San Francisco, the federal district court struck down the Tenant Relocation Ordinance as an unconstitutional taking.  The ordinance required property owners who wished to remove units from the rental market to pay massive sums to their tenants, ostensibly to cover the costs of relocation though nothing requires the tenants to use the money for that purpose.  As Judge Charles Breyer’s ruling recognized, the government cannot force property owners to remain landlords against their will.  The city immediate issued a statement bemoaning its defeat and the “dire” consequences of respecting property rights, and vowing to appeal.  PLF looks forward to defending this victory in the Ninth Circuit.

Property Rights – Victory Against the Coastal Commission!

When the California Court of Appeal original ruled against Walter Emmick’s daughters, who inherited his property in San Luis Obispo County, PLF saw that the ruling misunderstood the facts of the case and requested a rehearing.  The court agreed, saw the error of its original ruling, and yesterday issued a published decision in SDS Family Trust v. California Coastal Commission holding that the Coastal Commission’s attempt to exact a mile-long public-access easement from the family as a condition to their plans to make repairs on their home and rebuild their barn is an unconstitutional taking.  Importantly, the court relies on and reaffirms the continued vitality of the principles established by PLF’s Supreme Court win in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission.

Property Rights – Challenging “Secret” Land-Use Restrictions

The Breinigs of Flash Beach Grille took their next steps in their lawsuit against Martin County, Florida this week, asking the trial court to enjoin the County from enforcing illegal property restrictions.  In a nutshell, the county says that it has an easement on the Breinig’s property and ordered them to stop parking their catering truck and storing restaurant equipment on the strip of land.  This easement was never recorded in official county records, however, so there was no way for the Breinigs to know it existed.  The law prohibits government from enforcing unrecorded easements precisely to avoid unknowing buyers being blindsided.  The complaint in the case, Breinig v. Martin County, was filed in late August and the court should rule soon on the motion for preliminary injunction.

Individual Rights – First Amendment

Scott McLean just wants to sell his truck, but he can’t. He is afraid of getting a parking ticket, like he did two years ago, when he placed a “For Sale” sign on his car. Why would he get a ticket? Because the City of Alexandria, Virginia bans “For Sale” signs on cars parked on city streets.  As we explained in detail on the blog, this ban violates the First Amendment. Therefore, yesterday PLF filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of McLean, challenging Alexandria’s ban on “For Sale” signs, and seeking a preliminary injunction to forbid the city from enforcing the law.

Environmental Law – Oyster Harvest Settlement

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company settled its case with the federal government after its effort to enjoin the termination of its permit to harvest shellfish ended with the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in June, 2014.  The settlement in Drakes Bay Oyster Company v. Jewell allows Drakes Bay to harvest remaining shellfish until the end of 2014 and also requires the company to remove structures and improvements from its site, as well as providing financial assistance to displaced farm workers.  Drakes Bay’s owners will be opening a new restaurant nearby to continue the family business.  More information on the blog.

Free Enterprise – Freedom of Contract

Once again urging the United States Supreme Court to step in and reverse an anti-arbitration decision by the California Supreme Court, we filed an amicus brief supporting the petition for writ of certiorari in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC.  The Iskanian decision created a new method for employees to void their employment contracts that require arbitral resolution of workplace disputes.  It decided that the state’s Private Attorney General Act “deputized” employees to enforce the Labor Code in such a way that the employees could not waive their right to proceed as a “representative” of all employees (essentially, a class action).  As explained further on the blog, this is contrary to federal law.

Free Enterprise – Individual Responsibility

Today, the Texas Supreme Court denied the petition for review in Hunt v. Helbing, involving a college student who voluntarily joined other students in a dangerous outing to lay on a platform beneath a railroad trestle and fell between the ties when she climbed back on the bridge.  She sued the upperclassmen who invited her on the outing, claiming they had a duty to protect her.  The lower courts permitted her lawsuit to go forward.  The upperclassmen asked the Texas Supreme Court to review the case and PLF filed an amicus brief urging the court to grant review and reverse the decision below.  Unfortunately, the court declined to do so.  More details here.