Rob Rivett here once again to give you an update on PLF this past week. Of course, on Wednesday we remembered Independence Day with this nice writeup and this video. On the litigation front, we had two important developments:
Free Speech – Right to Petition the Government
We filed our amicus brief this week in Vargas v. City of Salinas supporting the petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. In Vargas, a group of citizens sued the City of Salinas, alleging that the City acted improperly in using taxpayer funds to oppose a ballot measure that would have repealed a utility tax. The suit was dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP statute (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) because it would have chilled the City’s First Amendment right to participate in the political process. Not only did the City prevail, but it was awarded over $250,000 in attorneys’ fees against the plaintiffs. In other words, the citizens who were trying to repeal a utility tax got hit with a quarter million bill for the temerity of suing the City for using public money to oppose the ballot measure.
Property Rights – Compensation for Temporary Takings
We filed our amicus brief in Arkansas Fish & Game Commission v. United States in the Supreme Court. From 1993 to 2000, the Corps of Engineers changed the way it was operating the Clearwater dam, sending more water downstream in order to have less of an impact upstream of the dam. In the process, it repeatedly flooded 23,000 of bottomland forest belonging to the people of Arkansas. In doing so, the Corps destroyed nearly $6 million of state-owned timber. Arkansas sued, won, and was awarded damages by the Court of Federal Claims. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because the Corps did not intend for the flooding to be permanent, there had been no taking. This holding effectively eviscerates the doctrine that there can be a temporary taking when the government physically invades property. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in April.