James S. Burling

Vice President for Litigation

Sacramento

Before becoming an attorney, James had been a productive member of society working as an exploration geologist in the late 1970s throughout the southwestern United States. However, after several years of dealing with irrational government bureaucrats and environmental policies untethered from reality, James decided that what the world needs is more lawyers — if they are willing to fight for rationality in regulatory regimes, property rights, and liberty.

James attended the University of Arizona College of Law in Tucson, where he served as an editor for the Law Review and received a J.D. degree in 1983. He had previously received a Masters degree in geological sciences from Brown University and an undergraduate degree from Hamilton College in New York. James received the Professional Achievement Award from the University of Arizona Alumni Association in 2018.

James has worked with Pacific Legal Foundation since 1983, litigating cases from Alaska to Florida. He is a member of the Federalist Society’s Environmental Law and Property Rights Practice Group’s Executive Committee, a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, and an honorary member of Owners Counsel of America, an organization comprised of eminent domain attorneys who represent property owners. The Owners Counsel awarded James its Crystal Eagle award in 2013.

In 2001, James successfully argued a major property rights case, Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, before the United States Supreme Court, a case which affirmed that rights in regulated property do not disappear when land is bought and sold. He has written extensively on all aspects of property rights and environmental law and frequently speaks on these subjects throughout the nation.

When James is not suing the government he enjoys skiing faster than he should, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and spending quality time with his wife, family, and new grandchild.

Before becoming an attorney, James had been a productive member of society working as an exploration geologist in the late 1970s throughout the southwestern United States. However, after several years of dealing with irrational government bureaucrats and environmental policies untethered from reality, James decided that what the world needs is more lawyers — if they are willing to fight for rationality in regulatory regimes, property rights, and liberty.

James attended the University of Arizona College of Law in Tucson, where he served as an editor for the Law Review and received a J.D. degree in 1983. He had previously received a Masters degree in geological sciences from Brown University and an undergraduate degree from Hamilton College in New York. James received the Professional Achievement Award from the University of Arizona Alumni Association in 2018.

James has worked with Pacific Legal Foundation since 1983, litigating cases from Alaska to Florida. He is a member of the Federalist Society’s Environmental Law and Property Rights Practice Group’s Executive Committee, a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, and an honorary member of Owners Counsel of America, an organization comprised of eminent domain attorneys who represent property owners. The Owners Counsel awarded James its Crystal Eagle award in 2013.

In 2001, James successfully argued a major property rights case, Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, before the United States Supreme Court, a case which affirmed that rights in regulated property do not disappear when land is bought and sold. He has written extensively on all aspects of property rights and environmental law and frequently speaks on these subjects throughout the nation.

When James is not suing the government he enjoys skiing faster than he should, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and spending quality time with his wife, family, and new grandchild.

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Property Rights

Pakdel v. City and County of San Francisco

Government can’t force tenants for life

Mr. Pakdel is a small business owner in Ohio. In 2009 he bought what’s known as a “tenancy in common” (TIC) apartment in San Francisco and leased it to a residential tenant. As part of the purchase, Pakdel signed an agreement with the other owners to convert the building’s six units into condominiums. But the City of San Francisco requires that property owners doing this conversion must offer lifetime leases to any tenants. Rather than allow the city to trample his property rights by dictating the use of his own property, Pakdel is fighting the unconstitutional mandate in federal court.

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Property Rights

P.I.E., LLC v. DeSoto County

Florida property owners deserve nothing less than just compensation

Florida’s Bert J. Harris Act requires the government to compensate property owners when a regulation “inordinately burden[s]” private property rights. In this case, Partners in Excavation (P.I.E.) purchased a 50-acre site for $1.25 million for the purpose of excavating fill dirt to be used in their septic contracting work. The property was worth $3.3 million as an excavation site. After the DeSoto County Planning Department approved the site, P.I.E. spent another $250,000 to submit a complete excavation permit application to the county. County staff recommended approval but the county instead denied the permit application and two months later passed a law that forbade excavation on the site. Because the permit denial cost P.I.E. over $2 million in value, it sought compensation under the Harris Act.

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Procedural Guarantees

National Restaurant Association v. Department of Labor

The outer reaches of a statute are bookends, not blank pages

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) restricts the tipping practices of companies that  use  tips  as  a  supplement  to  reach  their  federal minimum  wage  obligations—the so-called tip credit. The FLSA forbids companies from requiring tip-earning employees—such as waiters—to share tip money with untipped staff—such as line cooks. The FLSA imposes no such demand on companies that do not use a tip credit. Nonetheless, the Department of Labor issued a regulation requiring all businesses to follow the tip-pooling rule, whether they use the tip credit or not. Restaurants that do not use tip credits sued to invalidate the regulation but the courts upheld it on the theory that the FLSA’s silence on this issue created an ambiguity and the courts would defer to the agency’s interpretation. As amicus curiae, PLF urged the Supreme Court to review this decision.

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation update — September 22, 2018

Ninth Circuit holds that permafrost is a navigable water Today the Ninth Circuit in this opinion ruled against our clients in Tin Cup LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tin … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation update — September 15, 2018

Preliminary injunction briefing completed in Minnesota dance case This week we finished briefing our motion for a preliminary injunction in D.M. v. Minnesota State High School League. In this case, … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report — September 8, 2018

 Agencies must explain their decisions Thursday, we filed the latest brief in Mark and Bella Greene v. California Coastal Commission. The Greenes are a retired couple who wish to remodel … ›

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By James S. Burling

Public interest litigation, Senator Whitehouse, and the Kavanaugh hearings

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is not a fan of Pacific Legal Foundation. In the past he has accused us, wrongly, of being a “creepy front group” in the thrall of large … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report — September 1, 2018

It’s time to finally settle the legislative exactions question Earlier this week, PLF attorneys filed this reply brief in support of the U.S. Supreme Court petition in Dabbs v. Anne … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation update — August 25, 2018

Reply brief filed in Knick PLF attorneys filed this reply brief in Knick v. Scott Township, our case challenging the bizarre Supreme Court rule that prevents property owners from bringing … ›

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