May 5, 2018

Weekly litigation report — May 5, 2018

By James S. Burling Vice President for Litigation

Another lawsuit to challenge Seattle’s war on landlords

This week, we sued to challenge Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance on behalf of several landlords and the Rental Housing Association of Washington in Yim v. City of Seattle. The Fair Chance Housing Ordinance forbids landlords from asking for a criminal background check or denying someone housing because of their criminal history. Our lawsuit argues that this violates Due Process and the First Amendment. Check out this blog post to learn more.

Something is Rotten in the State of California

PLF, together with the Cato Institute, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Western Growers Association, the California Fresh Fruit Association, and the Ventura County Agricultural Association, filed  this amicus brief  urging the Supreme Court to take up Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board.  This is a case about whether the State of California can require a fruit company and its employees to agree to a collective bargaining agreement forced on them by the state, instead of one agreed to by the parties.  Because these agreements apply to only one company instead of all similar businesses, California is illegally imposing a bunch of individualized labor laws.  In our brief, we point out that laws should apply equally to everyone – not single out individual people or companies for special regulation.  For more, see our blog post here.

PLF files Motion for Rehearing En Banc in important Clean Water Act case

This week PLF filed its Motion for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc in Marquette County Road Commission v. EPA at the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. A panel of judges of the Court previously ruled against our client’s plea that the courthouse doors be opened to challenge an arbitrary denial of a wetland fill permit, a permit that would have allowed the county to build a much-needed road in the upper peninsula of Michigan. In our motion, we ask the entire Court to vacate that panel decision and then reverse the lower court’s decision. The Administrative Procedure Act opens the door to litigants in the Road Commission’s position and the Court should recognize as much. For more on the case, check out our case webpage at this link.

The way to make housing more affordable is to build more housing

The refusal by many local governments in California to allow developers to build enough housing has caused a housing shortage and housing costs that create hardships for just about everyone not earning a millionaire’s wage. In Marin County (where the median-priced home—averaging 1700 square feet—now costs over $1,100,000), the government’s idea of an “affordable housing” program is not to allow enough homes to be built to meet the demand but to charge huge fees to anyone who actually tries to build something, stuff it into government coffers for government programs that subsidize or build a miniscule amount of so-called “affordable housing” on the government’s terms. On Tuesday, we filed an opening brief in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of Dart and Esther Cherk. It took them nearly 15 years to complete the permit process to split a single, vacant large residential lot in Marin—only to be told the permit was conditioned on them paying $40,000 to the County as an “affordable housing” fee. As we explain in a blog post, the fee is unconstitutional, violating a long line of Supreme Court precedent that says government can’t demand money for a permit to change the use of land unless that permit offsets public costs created by the new development.

 PLF supports eminent domain reform efforts in California

We filed this comment letter in the California Senate Judiciary Committee in support of SB 1167, a bill that would incentivize local governments to provide fair and accurate compensation offers to landowners when the government takes property through eminent domain. The law would require governments to make a “final compensation offer” before initiating condemnation actions. If the landowners challenge the offer in court and obtain higher compensation, the government would be required to pay the landowner’s reasonable attorney’s fees. It will take much more than SB 1167 to eliminate eminent domain abuse, but it’s a step in the right direction in California. Read more in our blog post here.

 

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