May 13, 2017

Weekly litigation update — May 13, 2017

By Joshua P. Thompson Senior Attorney

PLF fights for booksellers’ First Amendment rights

On Thursday, PLF filed a major civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Book Passage, a bookstore in the Bay Area. The lawsuit challenges a California statute that requires businesses that sell signed items to demonstrate the authenticity of the signatures. This is a particular problem for bookstores that have frequent author events, where authors interact with customers and sign copies of their book. If bookstores don’t comply with the litany of mandates, they face potentially catastrophic liability. Because bookstores and book signings are so vital to First Amendment freedoms, PLF argues that this law is a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. For more on this important case, please visit our case page and blog post, listen to our podcast, or watch this case video.

Family has the right to make modest home improvements

Once again, the California Coastal Commission has unconstitutionally denied a family’s right to use their property. That’s why PLF filed a lawsuit against the Commission on behalf of Mark and Bella Greene. The Greenes bought property along a well-developed section of coast in Los Angeles County. When the Greens began their permit process, they hired an architect and submitted plans to the City of Los Angeles for approval. The city approved the plans and issued a permit because the Greenes proposal was consistent with Los Angeles zoning ordinances and over 50 years of practice by the City and Coastal Commission.  Even with the much-needed improvements, the Greenes’ home would still be smaller than neighboring homes up and down that stretch of the coast. Despite the City’s approval, the Commission objected. Relying on mere speculation about the effects of other development in the area, it required that the Greenes resubmit new renovation plans to conform to never-before-stated requirements.

PLF’s Damien Schiff announced as future nominee to the Court of Federal Claims

President Trump announced his intention to nominate PLF’s Damien Schiff to the Court of Federal Claims. Damien has been a tireless litigator for liberty, and, although we are sad to see him go, we are certain that he will be a great judge.

Reply brief filed in the United States Supreme Court

This week PLF filed its reply brief in BIA Bay Area v. San Ramon. In this case we are asking the Supreme Court to review the California Court of Appeal’s decision denying BIA Bay Area’s First Amendment claim against the City of San Ramon’s ordinance threatening to withdraw police services from homeowners who might vote to repeal an unfair local property tax.

States cannot regulate beyond their borders

PLF filed this amicus brief in Vizio v. Klee. The case concerns a statewide recycling program for consumer electronics in Connecticut. The state finances the program with a fee on television manufacturers calculated based on their nationwide sales. PLF’s brief argues that this funding scheme is unconstitutional under the Dormant Commerce Clause, which forbids states from regulating activity beyond their borders and erecting barriers to trade.

The public trust does not extend to dry land

The Oregon Court of Appeals issued a favorable decision in Kramer v. City of Lake Oswego. At issue in the case is whether the public could traipse across private land in order to access a lake, which was also on private property. Even though Oregon law recognizes the public’s right to recreate in waters of the state, the court held that individuals are not permitted to trespass across private land to do it.

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