With Sheetz victory, PLF’s record at the Supreme Court is unmatched 

April 19, 2024 | By NICOLE W.C. YEATMAN

On April 12, 2024, the Supreme Court ruled for Pacific Legal Foundation client George Sheetz in a case challenging extortionate permit fees for homebuilders. PLF now has won 18 of 20 cases we’ve litigated at the Supreme Court. Ten of the 18, including Sheetz, were unanimous decisions. Seven were won in the past five years. Three were last year alone. 

No other public interest law firm in America is having the impact PLF is having right now. Our streak at the Supreme Court hasn’t gone unnoticed: Last term, after PLF managed to bring three cases to the Supreme Court (Wilkins, Sackett, and Tyler), Tom Goldstein, cofounder of SCOTUSblog, told Reuters: “This is PLF’s moment to shine.” When PLF won all three cases, and then joined former PLF attorney Paul Beard on the Sheetz case this term, Bloomberg Law reported on PLF’s “remarkable success.” 

But the real impact isn’t measured in headlines; it’s measured in how our wins affect American lives and liberty. Each of PLF’s 18 Supreme Court victories has set a precedent that protects all Americans from government overreach and abuse.  

What Sheetz means 

The Sheetz victory builds on two previous PLF victories at the Supreme Court, Nollan (1987) and Koontz (2013), which limit how much the government can demand from property owners as a condition for obtaining building permits. Nollan prevents permitting officials from demanding land from homebuilders for reasons unconnected to the project being built; Koontz prevents officials from demanding money in a similar arbitrary way; and Sheetz now prevents local governments from passing laws that do the same thing. 

Nollan, Koontz, and Sheetz have made it increasingly difficult for the government to extort people who are trying to build on their own property. That’s especially crucial now, with the current housing crisis. In California, where George Sheetz lives, housing prices are out of control.  

Impact fees—like the $23,420 fee that El Dorado County slapped George with—“have the effect of minimizing the number of housing units that can be constructed for a given amount of investment—less bang for the buck,” columnist Dan Walters writes in Cal Matters. The Sheetz decision “is a small step toward reducing some of the costs that make housing so expensive to build in California[.]” 

Eighteen wins 

Just getting a case to the Supreme Court is a feat. The Court considers about 8,000 cert petitions every year and accepts fewer than 80 cases for review.  

PLF knows first-hand how hard it is to get a case to the Court: Earlier this year the Justices denied our petition in a high-profile case about discriminatory admissions at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. (Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.)  

Given the long odds of getting to the Court—and how tough it is to go up against the government—PLF’s 18 wins are an impressive achievement for freedom. 

“Great victory for Pacific Legal!” Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, wrote on X after the Supreme Court announced its Sheetz decision. “Great victory for property rights!”