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 2018, the Property Rights Foundation of America awarded James its Freedom Award for defense of private property rights.

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 2018, the Property Rights Foundation of America awarded James its Freedom Award for defense of private property rights.

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 report — December 15, 2018

Public land stewards reiterate that the President can reduce the size of national monuments

Briefing is now complete on the motion to dismiss Utah Diné Bikéyah v Trump, a case that challenges the President’s ability to reduce the size of national monuments PLF represents individuals and non-profit organizations that recreate, work, and volunteer on the public lands in Utah who were harmed when the Bears Ears National Monument was established This week, PLF filed another brief explaining the one president cannot bind future presidents when he establishes a national monument We are asking the court to dismiss the case A decision on the motion to dismiss is expected in

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report — Holding federal agencies accountable

Judicial review essential to hold federal agencies accountable On December 7, PLF filed a complaint on behalf of New Mexico ranchers in Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association v. Fish and … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report — Another Supreme Court Win!

Another PLF win in the Supreme Court This week, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously (8–0 with Justice Kavanaugh not participating) in favor of PLF client Edward Poitevent and his family … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report: Private property rights and illegal taxation

PLF joins Montanans’ private property fight against federal government This week, in Wilkins v. United States of America, PLF took over as lead attorneys for two Montana property owners who … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report: Navigable wetlands, water rights, and more

PLF asks Supreme Court to take up wetlands enforcement case This Wednesday we filed a cert. petition in the Supreme Court in Robertson v. United States. Joe Robertson is appealing … ›

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By James S. Burling

Weekly litigation report — November 2, 2018

Knick to be reargued The court has ordered Knick v. Scott Township for reargument. In this order the Court has asked Ms. Knick to file a supplemental briefs by the end … ›

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