October 25, 2017

Spreading the news about property rights

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

This past week I had the opportunity to share the importance of private property rights on two occasions before two very different audiences.

First, I participated in a Federalist Society luncheon debate/panel at my alma mater, the University of Florida College of Law, about regulatory takings law and PLF’s most recent case heard on the merits at the Supreme Court, Murr v. Wisconsin. Dean Laura Rosenbury moderated the event; UF Law Professor Danaya Wright and I debated the result and the consequences that may flow from the case decided last spring.

A big crowd turned out for the debate.
UF Law’s Fed Soc logo.

The event drew a large crowd of at least 100 students, certainly interested in large part because of the involvement of UF’s Dean Rosenbury and Professor Wright, who Justice Kennedy cited in his majority opinion to support his decision that the Murrs did not suffer a Fifth Amendment taking without compensation.

The student newspaper reported on the event, and selections from the piece give a good flavor of the back and forth:

“The family should not have been punished for success, and that’s what this decision does,” Miller said. “They were not allowed to enjoy the benefit derived from investing in a second lot.”

***

“At the end of the day, they voluntarily did this to themselves,” Wright said. “Hundreds of county and state authorities throughout the nation use these zoning regulations. The[re is] a sacrosanct character to lot lines [in] state law.”

Professor Wright and Miller

These comments, while specific to the case, reflect the property rights debate generally – do we respect the Fifth Amendment rights of property owners to just compensation when the government takes their property, or do we side with the government and ask some land owners to balance the needs of the community on their own backs without just (or, in this case, any) compensation? Based on the questioning from the crowd, one could assume that at least several students found the result the High Court imposed unjust.

*****

A few days later, I had the privilege of presenting the opening speech at the Property Rights Foundation of America‘s 21st Annual National Conference on Property Rights just outside of Albany, New York. Carol LaGrasse, the longtime Executive Director for the PRFA, asked me to make my comments timely. That suggestion led us to agree that I would title my speech, “President Trump and Property Rights: Promises Made, Promises Delivered?

Carol LaGrasse and Mark Miller

The speech touched on some of President Trump’s successes — his appointment of Justice Gorsuch and likeminded judges to the lower courts, along with his successful effort to roll back the regulatory state — while also emphasizing some cases where the jury is still out. What will he do with the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule? What about his unclear stance on the national monument debate? These questions were highlighted, along with the Administration’s mystifying decision to punish John Duarte for farming his property.

The two events allowed me the honor of spreading the gospel of property rights to audiences up and down the east coast in the space of half a week.

*****

I would be remiss if I did not thank Dean Rosenbury and Professor Wright for accepting the Federalist Society’s invitation to participate in the UF Law event. Likewise, I am grateful to UF’s Federalist Society President Danitza Morales for asking me to speak and for event organizer Carly Shore for putting on such a great show. And finally, thank you to Carol LaGrasse for encouraging me to join her in upstate New York for the PRFA annual conference. It was an honor to follow in the footsteps of prior PLF speakers at past PRFA conferences, including Jim Burling and Jonathan Wood. Opportunities like these remind me that many, many people believe the Fifth Amendment still matters, and our work at PLF supporting private property rights through the courts at no charge to our clients must continue.

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