November 23, 2015

Washington Post endorses PLF position on DC takings case

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

On November 15, The Washington Post ran an essay that Todd Gaziano and I wrote, urging the District of Columbia to do the right thing and pay for the property it took from DC’s most vulnerable citizens.  As I explained last week on the Liberty Blog, until recently, DC used an outrageous tax foreclosure law to take homes over relatively small debts.  Homeowners with even small tax debts – $133.88, for example – lost their homes when they didn’t pay on time, and never saw a penny of the excess proceeds when the government and private collectors sold their property.  As we explained in the essay and in a friend-of-the-court brief we submitted to a federal court in support of the dispossessed homeowners, the District of Columbia violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that government can only take property when it is for a public use and when it pays just compensation.  A few days ago, the Post’s Editorial Board quoted from and linked to our article, joining our call for the District of Columbia to do the right thing and pay for the property it took from DC’s residents. The Editorial Board wrote,

The District contends that the constitutional bar against unlawful taking doesn’t apply in the lien cases because home equity is not really property, and these residents forfeited their rights when they failed to pay taxes.

“Doubling down on the dispossessed” was the apt characterization of this position in a recent essay in The Post’s Local Opinions section. . . . We urge [D.C. Attorney General Karl] Racine to reassess decisions about this suit and consult with the mayor and D.C. Council about how to compensate these residents for their losses.

Read the rest of the Editorial Board’s opinion here.

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