John Groen has extensive experience in public interest litigation before all levels of federal and state courts. He began his law career with Pacific Legal Foundation in 1987 and launched the PLF Bellevue office in 1992. After nine years on staff, he shifted to private practice and formed Groen, Stephens & Klinge LLP in Bellevue, Washington, where he litigated land use issues and takings claims arising from government regulation of private property. Many of his cases are now leading appellate decisions that have shaped significant aspects of land use law in Washington.
In 2006, John campaigned statewide challenging the incumbent Chief Justice for election to the Washington Supreme Court. Although he lost a very close election, the experience was invaluable. In particular, John appreciated the many volunteers and new friends he made during the campaign.
After 19 years in private practice, and two years as a Trustee on the PLF Board of Trustees, John realized it was time to return to his passion for public interest law in support of private property rights. In 2015, he resigned from his law practice and began his second tour as a PLF litigator. Two years later, on behalf of the Murr family, he argued Murr v. Wisconsin before the United States Supreme Court.
John lives in Leavenworth, Washington, which is a small “Bavarian themed” tourist town on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains. He enjoys the tourists, but refuses to wear lederhosen. John admits he is a bit of a golf addict. Despite a marginal handicap that never improves, he says there is nothing quite like a walk on a beautiful course, whether solitary or with friends.
John is a 1981 graduate of Claremont McKenna College and received his law degree from McGeorge School of Law. As he looks to the future, John is particularly excited about seeing young PLF attorneys embracing the cause for liberty. He says their dedication and exceptional talent will ensure that PLF’s mission to defend constitutional rights and liberty will thrive.Read less
Kinderace v. City of Sammamish
By means of a boundary line adjustment, Kinderace created a new 32,850 square foot parcel of which all but 83 square feet had been designated by the City of Sammamish as environmentally critical areas and buffers. The City denied Kinderace’s request for a reasonable use exception that would have allowed it to proceed with a proposed development project on the new parcel. Kinderace sued the City for a regulatory taking because the denial deprived it of all economically viable use of the parcel. The Washington courts rejected Kinderace’s claim, finding that it had received reasonable beneficial use of the property as part of a joint development with an adjoining parcel. PLF represented Kinderace in his petitions to higher courts to review the case.Read more
Preserve Responsible Shoreline Management (PRSM) v. City of Bainbridge Island; Olympic Stewardship Foundation (OSF) v. Growth Management Hearings Board
Coastal counties in Washington State passed “critical areas” ordinances requiring all shoreline property owners to dedicate a “buffer” zone and a strip of their beach property to the public as a mandatory condition on any new development. The counties assert this purported power under the state’s Shoreline Management Act, in which Washington’s legislature explicitly rendered property rights “secondary” to the public’s interest in the environment. Citizens groups in Bainbridge Island and Jefferson County challenged these conditions as unconstitutional takings because the need for buffers were not supported by the scientific record and took more than necessary to mitigate any negative impacts cause by development of the property. PLF represents the Bainbridge Island property owners (PRSM) in the challenge, which was stayed pending resolution of the Jefferson County case (OSF), in which PLF participated as amicus.Read more
Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Company
Along the shore of Washington’s Lake Chelan, a large fill known as “Three Fingers” has been in place since 1961. The placement of this fill was retroactively authorized by the state’s Shoreline Management Act, which grants consent and authorizes impairment of public rights of navigation, fishing, and recreation caused by fill placed in navigable waters prior to December 4, 1969. An environmental group, Chelan Bay Conservancy, sued the owner of Three Fingers to remove the fill on the basis that it allegedly violates the public trust doctrine. The Washington Supreme Court issued a decision largely adopting the legal principles espoused in PLF’s amicus brief in favor of the property owner and remanded the public trust question for trial.Read more
Defending the rights and liberties of regular Americans — that’s been Pacific Legal Foundation’s stock and trade for more than 40 years The challenge facing PLF clients, Teresa Avila-Burns and her husband Ray Burns, is typical of the cases we take and victories we win for their constitutional rights, and those of their fellow Americans
Today, on #GivingTuesday, their victory over the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), exemplifies the unique partnership we have with our donors, most of whom are just regular, freedom-loving Americans
Ray and Teresa sought a permit to build a modest home at Lake Tahoe in an established subdivision with streets, and sewer, water and electrical serviceRead more
The Supreme Court of the United States today received PLF’s Reply Brief on the Merits in Murr v Wisconsin, filed on behalf of the Murr family The case is now fully briefed, and ready for scheduling oral argument It is expected that the Court will soon set an oral argument date, most likely in November
This case presents a long-standing and difficult question that is critical to the protection afforded property owners by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment The case is expected to produce national precedent for how to identify the “relevant parcel” to be considered in a regulatory takings case
Here, the Murr family owns two adjacentRead more
This week, Pacific Legal Foundation made history outside the courtroom with the naming of Steven Anderson — our next President and CEO Steven is well versed in constitutional law and he’s an ardent defender of property rights from a stellar career at the Institute for Justice where he is currently Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
He officially assumes his new post at PLF on September 1, but he takes the helm at PLF at a momentous time in our 43-year history Already this year, PLF has notched our eighth and ninth victories before the Supreme Court of the United States, US Army Corps ofRead more
Supreme Court Victory!
The Supreme Court gave Pacific Legal Foundation a resounding victory on Monday in United States Army Corps of Engineers v Hawkes The unanimous Court held that a Corps of Engineers’ Jurisdictional Determination (ie wetlands delineation) is immediately reviewable in court and subject to challenge For the first time since the inception of the Clean Water Act (1972), overzealous government bureaucrats can be held immediately accountable in court for their erroneous assertions of federal control over private wetlands and other waters This levels the playing field for landowners who have been at the mercy of overreaching government for far too long Reed Hopper explains more here
Yesterday, eleven separate briefs representing over 30 entities were filed in the Supreme Court of the United States in support of the Murrs in this high profile regulatory taking case Of particular note, the State of Nevada was joined by eight other states, pointing out that “Amici States’ interest is at its apex here” and that the rule adopted by the Wisconsin court “imperils the property rights of citizens”
The Murrs allege an uncompensated taking by government restrictions that block all use of their vacant residential parcel But the Wisconsin court ruled that because the Murr family happens to own the adjoining parcel, and enjoy a recreational cabin there,Read more
Pacific Legal Foundation today filed its Petitioners’ Brief on the Merits in this case pending before the Supreme Court of the United States The Court granted review on January 15th, 2016, and oral argument will be held in early October A specific oral argument date has not yet been set A copy of the Petition is here, and the Merits Brief is here
Since 1978, regulatory takings of private property have been evaluated based on the magnitude of government interference with the “parcel as a whole” But the perplexing problem has been how to define the scope of that parcel Just what is the whole parcel? In thisRead more