Thursday, August 11, 2011

Somin on Federalism and Property Rights

Ilya Somin (George Mason) has posted Federalism and Property Rights, University of Chicago Legal Forum (2010 Symposium on Governance and Power), p. 1, 2011. The abstract:

Both the Supreme Court and leading legal scholars have often cited federalism as a reason to severely limit federal judicial enforcement of constitutional property rights. Defenders of the federalism rationale for judicial deference on property rights issues make two key arguments. One holds that abuses of property rights by state or local governments will be curbed by interjurisdictional competition, rendering judicial intervention unnecessary. The second is the superior knowledge and expertise of state and local governments relative to federal judges.

This article criticizes both claims. Part I explains why competitive federalism is unlikely to provide effective protection for property rights in land because property is an immobile asset. People who “vote with their feet” by leaving a jurisdiction cannot take their land with them. For this crucial reason, interjurisdictional competition will often fail to effectively protect property rights in land, though it may be more useful in the case of rights to mobile property.

Part II takes up the issue of diversity and expertise. While state and local governments may indeed have greater expertise than federal courts in assessing local conditions, federal judicial protection of property rights ultimately empowers not judges but property owners. It is the latter who will actually get to decide the uses of the land in question in cases where federal courts prevent state or local governments from condemning their property or restricting its use. Owners generally have greater knowledge of their land than local government officials do. Moreover, the local expertise rationale for judicial deference on property rights would, if applied consistently, justify judicial deference to state and local governments with respect to numerous other constitutional rights, including those protected by the First and Fourth Amendments.

Questions about federalism with respect to property and land use have been getting a lot of attention recently. This article looks like it will really contribute to those discussions. While other land use scholars are focusing on questions of federal vs. state vs. local regulation of property and land (i.e., legislative and administrative acts), Somin's article focuses on asking which level of government is appropriate to exercise judicial review of those acts. It will be interesting to compare.

Matt Festa

August 11, 2011 in Constitutional Law, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Federal Government, Judicial Review, Local Government, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, State Government, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Texas Supreme Court abates Severance v. Patterson

I was on the road for about a month with very little internet access (more on that to come).  Fortunately, my land use students keep me up to date on things.  Late last week I learned from my student Sonny Eckhart that the Texas Supreme Court issued its latest, and perhaps last, ruling in the Severance v. Patterson case that we've been following here on the blog, "abating" the case until the Fifth Circuit rules on the issue of mootness.  I asked him to write it up for our readers, and here's what he has to say:

For those who have been following the Open Beach Act Litigation in Severance v. Patterson: warning, you might be a little disappointed.  The Severance case is a challenge to the Texas Open Beaches Act, where Galveston Island homeowner Carol Severance brought suit against the Texas Attorney General and other state officials over the central issue of whether private beachfront properties on Galveston Island have redress when a public beach access easement is “rolled” onto private property when the vegetation line migrates landward.  Needless to say, this has caused a stir in the courts and among legal scholars.  During this process, the Land Use Prof Blog has provided several discussions and updates on the long-running dispute. See here, here, here, herehere, and here.

On November 5, 2010, the Texas Supreme Court issued their opinion concluding public easements do not always “roll” with the beachfront.  Most notably, the court distinguished between a change or avulsion caused by a natural event, such as a hurricane, and a “gradual change.”It would appear that Carol Severance had won a substantial victory.  To combat this, the State filed a motion for rehearing—a motion that held the support of several amicus groups.  The court granted rehearing in Severance and heard arguments four months ago, in April. 

The facts of the case took an unexpected turn a few weeks ago when Carol Severance sold her property in Galveston, and thus may have rendered the legal action moot.  The State acted quickly and filed a motion to vacate the November 2010 opinion before sending this matter back to the Fifth Circuit.  Both parties submitted briefs on the issue of mootness.  See State’s brief on mootness; Severance’s brief on mootness.  Last Friday, July 29, the court issued an order that abated the case until the Fifth Circuit first reviewed the issue of mootness.  The order in this case abates the Texas Supreme Court appeal until the jurisdictional issues can be decided. 

Is This The End?

Find out after the jump!

Continue reading

August 4, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, State Government, Takings, Texas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mulvaney's take on SCOTUS cert grant for PPL Montana v. State of Montana

I'm excited to post this guest blog from Professor Timothy Mulvaney, a land use prof from Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth.  He's written extensively about judicial takings and exactions, and proivdes this timely and interesting post about yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court cert grant.  This case has been somewhat under the radar, but could end up being very important.  Thanks to Tim for the early and interesting analysis-- Matt Festa

Thank you very much for the opportunity to guest blog during this important week at the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is understandable that today’s headlines regarding the Supreme Court are devoted to several landmark decisions released yesterday, including rulings rejecting class certification in Wal-Mart v. Dukes and holding that the Clean Air Act displaces federal common law nuisance claims when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions in AEP v. Connecticut.  But in addition to these major holdings, the Supreme Court also took the noteworthy step of granting certiorari in PPL Montana, LLC v. State of Montana.  This case could have important implications for property, land use, natural resources, and environmental law.

In 2010, the Montana Supreme Court held that the State of Montana owns the beds of the Missouri, Madison, and Clarke Fork Rivers as an incident of state sovereignty. This ruling confirmed that PPL Montana is required to pay over $40 million in back-rent, as well as yet-to-be-determined future rent, for use of the rivers to generate hydroelectric power.  PPL Montana claims that the riverbeds are private property, such that no rent to (or approval from) the State is necessary to conduct their operations.  To determine whether these rivers are held in trust by the State or rather in private ownership turns on whether the rivers are considered “navigable.”  The U.S. Supreme Court has defined waterways as “navigable” in the context of such a title dispute if the rivers were “used, or [were] susceptible of being used, in their ordinary condition, as highways for commerce, over which trade and travel [were] or may be conducted” when the relevant State was admitted to the Union.

In finding that all three rivers at issue met this “navigability for title” test when Montana entered statehood in 1889, the Montana Supreme Court cited to a litany of historical evidence, including the centuries-old journals of Lewis and Clark.  As today’s brief AP story notes, PPL Montana disagreed, pointing “to accounts of the [Lewis and Clark] expedition’s arduous portages of canoes and supplies around waterfalls to argue that the contested stretches of water were not navigable.”  The Montana Supreme Court’s opinion also drew PPL Montana’s ire by considering what the company alleges are flawed contemporary studies, as well as recent recreational uses of certain stretches of the rivers, to support the finding that the rivers are held in total by the state in trust for present and future generations.

One of the foremost experts in natural resources and water law, Professor Rick Frank, notes on Legal Planet that the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed navigability in the context of state public trust claims for several decades.  How the Supreme Court interprets its time-honored test and identifies what evidence is relevant in its application could have major ramifications for thousands of miles of inland lakes and waterways nationwide. 

Yet there may be another issue lurking under the surface.  In seeking the Supreme Court’s review, PPL Montana and several of its amici sought to frame the Montana Supreme Court’s decision as a “judicial taking.” You will recall that in the 2010 case of Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Supreme Court left the existence and scope of a judicial takings doctrine in a state of flux.  To cull from a law review article I authored on Stop the Beach this past winter:

A four-Justice plurality endorsed a novel theory that would make the Takings Clause applicable to a wide collection of state court interpretations of state property law. Writing for the plurality, Justice Scalia declared that a state court’s opinion finding that an “established” property right “no longer exists” may amount to an unconstitutional taking.  … Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Sotomayor, wrote separately to suggest that only when the Constitution’s Due Process Clause proves “somehow inadequate” to protect landowners from the judicial elimination of their existing property rights should the questions surrounding the need for and scope of a judicial takings doctrine be addressed.  … Though generally expressing grave doubts about the plurality’s judicial takings standard, Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg, concurred in the judgment but found the issue of judicial takings “better left for another day.” [Justice Stevens recused himself.]

In its petition for certiorari, PPL Montana cited to Stop the Beach in asserting that, “[b]ecause [the Montana Supreme Court was] the operative force behind this land transfer [from private ownership to state ownership], it remains to be seen whether property owners in general have a Takings Claim or due process objection to [such a] land grab.”  In support of PPL Montana’s petition, the Cato Institute joined the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in contending that the Montana Supreme Court adopted a retroactive rule that destroyed title already accrued in violation of the Takings Clause, calling the Court’s ruling a “thinly-disguised judicial taking.”  For its part, the State of Montana maintained that nothing in the Montana Supreme Court’s decision contravened established property law, for PPL Montana’s “deeds and pleadings show it has no riverbed property to take” and the State “has claimed and received compensation for uses of navigable riverbeds for decades.” 

It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Supreme Court will address the judicial takings question when it takes up PPL Montana, LLC v. State of Montana in the coming year.  The certiorari stage documents are available here.  It is anticipated that the parties and their amici will brief the case this summer, with oral argument likely to occur in the winter.  Stay tuned to the Land Use Prof Blog for updated information.

Timothy Mulvaney

June 21, 2011 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Federal Government, Judicial Review, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Somin on Stop the Beach and Judicial Takings

Ilya Somin (George Mason) has posted another timely article, Stop the Beach Renourishment and the Problem of Judicial Takings, forthcoming in Vol. 6 of the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy (2011).  The abstract:

Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection was the Supreme Court’s first effort to address the problem of judicial takings: whether or not a judicial decision can ever qualify as a taking that requires compensation under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Unfortunately, a divided Court failed to resolve the issue, which is now left for future cases.

This article argues that judicial takings do exist. I also explain why this conclusion would not require federal courts to take on any unusual administrative burdens. Part II briefly discusses the background of Stop the Beach. In Part III, I defend Justice Antonin Scalia’s conclusion that “the Takings Clause bars the State from taking private property without paying for it, no matter which branch [of government] is the instrument of the taking.” This principle follows logically from both the text and the original meaning of the Fifth Amendment. Various rationales for distinguishing judicial takings from other takings do not overturn this simple but sound conclusion.

Part IV addresses claims that enforcing a takings doctrine would lead federal courts into severe practical difficulties. A judicial takings doctrine would not require legal principles significantly different from or more complicated than other takings claims. Justice Stephen Breyer and others are wrong to suggest that such a doctrine would “invite a host of federal takings claims” that federal judges would be unable to handle.

Matt Festa

June 4, 2011 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, Property Rights, Scholarship, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Somin on State Court Limits on Eminent Domain since Kelo

Ilya Somin (George Mason) has posted The Judicial Reaction to Kelo, 4 Alb. Gov't L. Rev 1 (2011). Here's the abstract:

Kelo v. City of New London was one of the most controversial decisions in Supreme Court history, generating a massive political backlash that led 43 states to adopt eminent domain reform laws restricting economic development takings of the kind the Court ruled were constitutional. In addition to the better-known legislative reaction, Kelo was also followed by extensive additional property rights litigation in both federal and state courts. This is the first article to systematically analyze the judicial reaction to Kelo.
Part I briefly summarizes Kelo and its holding. Part II considers state court interpretations of their state constitutional public use clauses since Kelo. Most of these cases have repudiated Kelo, either banning economic development takings outright or significantly constraining them. Part III considers judicial interpretations of Kelo’s “pretext” standard. This is the one area where Kelo might potentially permit nontrivial public use constraints on condemnation. Kelo indicated that condemnations are unconstitutional if the officially stated rationale for the taking is a pretext “for the purpose of conferring a private benefit on a particular private party.” State and lower federal courts have not come to any consensus on what qualifies as a pretextual taking. Nevertheless, several decisions suggest that the pretext standard may have some bite.
Overall, state courts have taken a skeptical view of Kelo, often rejecting it as a guide to the interpretation of their state constitutions. This reaction continues the pre-Kelo trend of increasing judicial protection for property rights at the state level.

The article introduces a symposium issue entitled Eminent Domain in the United States: Public Use, Just Compensation, & “The Social Compact.” Published participants include Steven Eagle, Gideon Kanner and Amy Lavine.

Jim K.

May 31, 2011 in Caselaw, Community Economic Development, Constitutional Law, Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Judicial Review, Property, Property Rights, Redevelopment, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Power's Creative Commons Casebook: A Land Use Treasure

Garrett Power (Maryland) has posted the 2011 edition of Constitutional Limitations on Land Use Controls, Environmental Regulations and Governmental Exactions.  Matt blogged about the 2010 edition within days of it being posted last Fall.  Garrett's use of non-copyrighted case opinion and statutory materials makes for a wonderful land use teaching resource whether or not it is a course's principal casebook.  Here's the abstract:

The casebook, which is electronically published in PDF format, is a part of the E-scholarship Repository of the University of Maryland School of Law. It consists of non-copyrighted material and is intended for classroom use. Professors and students are free to use it in whole or part. As the Table of Contents indicates, 170 odd cases have been grouped into 36 "sessions." Most sessions consist of four or five tightly-edited cases and the related statutes, if any. The readings are intended to be historically, economically, politically, and legally evocative; they are designed to provide an assignment appropriate for a 55 minute class discussion. The complication is approximately 1100 pages in length. It is updated annually.

Jim K.

May 25, 2011 in Caselaw, Judicial Review, Planning, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Byrne on Stopping Stop the Beach

J. Peter Byrne (Georgetown) has posted Stop the Stop the Beach Plurality!, forthcoming in the Ecology Law Quarterly.  The abstract:

The plurality opinion in Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection articulated a new doctrine of "judicial takings," and justified it with arguments drawing on text, history, precedent, and "common sense." This essay argues that the opinion falls makes a mockery of such forms of interpretation, represents raw pursuit of an ideological agenda, and indicates why the Regulatory Takings Doctrine more generally should be abandoned or limited.

Matt Festa

May 15, 2011 in Beaches, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, Property Rights, Scholarship, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Penalver & Strahilevitz on Judicial Takings or Due Process?

Eduardo Penalver (Cornell) and Lior Strahilevitz (Chicago) have posted Judicial Takings or Due Process?  The abstract:

In Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 130 S. Ct. 2592 (2010), a plurality of the Supreme Court concluded that the Takings Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits the judiciary from declaring that “what was once an established right of private property no longer exists” unless the property owner in question receives just compensation. In this paper, we delineate the boundaries between a judicial taking and a violation of the Constitution’s due process protections. The result is a judicial takings doctrine that is narrower and more coherent than the one suggested by Stop the Beach.

Our argument proceeds in two parts. The first is a conceptual section that explains what factors are relevant to determining whether a judicial action diminishing a private property interest is a judicial taking or something else. In our view, where a judicial decision intentionally seizes private property in order to achieve a legitimate public end, the Takings Clause is an appropriate framework for evaluating the constitutionality of the state’s action. Due Process is the more appropriate doctrinal pathway where the judiciary does not intend to abrogate a private owner’s property rights, or where the diminution of private property rights results from a judicial action that serves no legitimate public purpose. By clarifying the boundaries of judicial takings, we also hope to shed light on the constitutional foundation for numerous state-court doctrines concerning the retroactivity of new property rules. The second section articulates a novel functional argument, which suggests that creating liability for judicial takings may cause litigants to underinvest in high quality legal representation, which will in turn increase the likelihood of judicial mistakes and contribute to the destabilization of existing entitlements. This phenomenon prompts us to argue that cases in which the underinvestment incentives are most pronounced should be litigated under the Due Process Clause, but cases where repeat-play or the government’s involvement as a litigant mitigates the underinvestment problem represent more appropriate vehicles for judicial takings treatment. What rides on the distinction between judicial takings and due process violations? Under our approach, judicial takings cases should be (a) easier to win than due process cases, (b) more likely to result in damages remedies than injunctive remedies, and (c) may lend themselves to attractive “comparative fault” inspired solutions.

Looks like a very important paper!

Matt Festa

April 1, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, State Government, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Smith and Bailey on Restrictive Zoning for Adult Uses/Sexually Oriented Businesses

George Smith (Catholic) and Gregory Bailey have posted Regulating Morality through the Common Law and Exclusionary Zoning, 60 Catholic L. Rev. 403 (2011).   Here's the abstract:

The extent to which a free society seeks to regulate sexual expression is problematic. What was defined as immoral or contra bonos mores in the 20th century, has become less of an issue in today’s liberal society. Freedom of sexual intimacy and expression are, to be sure, 1st Amendment and 14th Amendment rights. But, with every assertion of a fundamental right or liberty must come a concomitant understanding that there is a co-ordinate responsibility to exercise that right reasonably. Determining the reasonableness of any conduct grounded in these two amendments must be fact sensitive and guided by community standards. Broad, open-ended moral judgments should be eschewed as foundational bases for legal judgments. Indeed, advancing moral grounds as justification for regulating personal liberties of sexual expression and association are being seen by some as invalid reasons for enacting exclusionary land use regulations - here, for the containment of activities connected with sexually oriented businesses [SOBs]. No unequivocal standard of dispositive clarity will ever be formulated which determines when conduct is unreasonable in that it is lewd and obscene or when written, electronic and photographic material pornographic in content rises to the level of obscenity and thereby subject to strict regulation. The most logical and common sense approach to this quandary is for legislators, land use planners, zoning commissioners and courts, in trying to either eliminate or contain the operation of SOBs, is to rely upon and use several tools: common law nuisance fortified by either moral, anticipatory or aesthetic iterations or models, and exclusionary zoning techniques. Difficult though determining when, under nuisance law, conduct is so unreasonable as to warrant its cessation, the Restatement of Torts Second provides a workable construct for making that determination. Both strengthened and guided by the doctrine of secondary effects, nuisance actions of all types have a clear placement in the arsenal of legal weapons which may be used to regulate effectively SOBs. The implementation of a community-based standard of morality for proper regulatory control of SOBs will always present an issue of unpredictability inherent in its underlying flexibility. For the content-neutral regulation of sexually oriented businesses, the only limiting requirement analyzed, aside from ensuring adequate alternative channels of communication, is determining if the regulation serves a significant government interest. Further, while the Supreme Court has held repeatedly that preventing a multitude of secondary effects is a significant government interest, the manner in which that goal could be served has not been meaningfully defined or limited. The secondary effects doctrine places great power, and corresponding responsibility, in the hands of each local community - but it does so at the peril of uniformity. While uniformity is not an absolute necessity in the Federalist system, the type and severity of secondary effect that can be a justification for regulating the location of a sexually oriented business should be clarified. The time, place, or manner restrictions imposed can be left up to each locality to tailor to their needs, but the triggering events for those restrictions must be more clearly defined.

Jim K.

March 22, 2011 in Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Judicial Review, Local Government, NIMBY, Nuisance, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rehearing--and panel discussion--on Texas Open Beaches Act

Late last week, the Texas Supreme Court granted a rehearing in Severance v. Patterson, the case decided last November holding that the Texas Open Beaches Act does not establish a public easement for dry-sand beach access without proof of dedication, prescription, or custom, and that public access easements do not "roll" inward with the vegetation line after major avulsive events such as hurricanes.  Hard to say what this portends, but it can't be good news for the plaintiff-appellant.  After the decision, lots of amicus briefs, particularly from local governments, started pouring on the motion for rehearing.  Here's a link from the Supreme Court of Texas Blog.

I blogged about the decision in a post which includes a multitude of links to the opinions; to the Texas Supreme Court's webpage for the case (great for finding the amici on the motion for rehearing); to the statute and constitutional amendment; and to various briefs including (full disclosure) my amicus and that of Surfrider Foundation.  Oral arugment on the rehearing (not very often granted, as I understand it) is set for April 19.

In the meantime, let's do what we lawyers do best, and talk about it!  The Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth is hosting a Severance v. Patterson Panel Discussion next Friday, March 25, at 11:30.  It will be co-sponsored by the student chapters of the Federalist Society and the Environmental Law Society, and will feature Pacific Legal Foundation attorney David Breemer, lead counsel for the plaintiff; Ellis Pickett, Chairman of the Upper Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and amicus curiae for defendants; and yours truly.  The event will be moderated by Texas Wesleyan land use scholar Prof. Timothy Mulvaney.  If you can be in DFW next week to join us, please do!

Matt Festa

March 16, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Conferences, Judicial Review, Local Government, Property Rights, State Government, Takings, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lupu and Tuttle on RLUIPA and Religious Accommodation

Ira Lupu (GW) and Robert Tuttle (GW) have posted The Forms and Limits of Religious Accommodation: The Case of RLUIPA32 Cardozo L. Rev ___ (forthcoming 2011), on SSRN.   Here's the abstract:

This paper, prepared for a Symposium at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law to mark the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith, focuses on the constitutionally appropriate forms for, and limits on, government protection of religious freedom. Part I articulates in general terms the primary constitutional strategy of mandatory accommodations – protection of religion and its secular analogues in matters of speech, association, and equality – and the limits on such accommodations, with an emphasis on a jurisdictional limit to the state’s capacity to decide questions of religious significance. Part II extends this concept of a jurisdictional limit to permissive accommodations, and analyzes the role of that limit in the interpretation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”). Part II argues that many of the land use provisions of RLUIPA can be constitutionally applied without official decision-makers violating that jurisdictional limit, but that some applications of the land use provisions, and a significant number of applications of the institutionalized persons provisions, raise profound problems of state exercise of religious authority.

Jim K.

January 20, 2011 in Constitutional Law, Federal Government, First Amendment, Judicial Review, NIMBY, RLUIPA, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Connecticut RLUIPA case on NPR

All Things Considered last night featured a four-minute story on a federal lawsuit brought by an Orthodox Jewish group challenging the denial of its building permit for a student center in an historic residential district.  Patty Salkin (Albany) blogged at Law of the Land this past summer about the denial of the motion to dismiss.

Jim K.

kellyj@wlu.edu

January 14, 2011 in Aesthetic Regulation, Federal Government, First Amendment, Judicial Review, NIMBY, Planning, RLUIPA, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Nuisance & Global Warming

The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert on Monday to hear American Electric Power Company, Inc. v. Connecticut.  The case, on petition from the Second Circuit, was brought by several states against the entities they contend are the leading causers of global warming in the U.S.  It hasn't gone to trial yet.  What's significant about the case--both as a matter of legal theory and policy--is that the theory of the case is based on nuisance.  Via SCOTUSblog, a statement of the issues:

Issue: (1) Whether states and private parties may seek emissions caps on utilities for their alleged contribution to global climate change; (2) whether a cause of action to cap carbon dioxide emissions can be implied under federal common law; and (3) whether claims seeking to cap carbon dioxide emissions based on a court's weighing of the potential risks of climate change against the socioeconomic utility of defendants' conduct would be governed by “judicially discoverable and manageable standards” or could be resolved without “initial policy determination[s] of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion.” (Sotomayor, J., recused.)

Plain English Issue: Whether federal law allows states and private parties to sue utilities for contributing to global warming. (Sotomayor, J., recused.)

Again, what's implied in this issue statement is that the case is based on (federal) nuisance (common) law.  You can read an analysis from Lyle Denniston on SCOTUSblog (scroll down a bit), and view the links to the briefs, orders, and amici at SCOTUSblog here.  There are lots of conlaw and administrative law bigwigs and interest groups on both sides of what will likely be an important case.

Matt Festa 

December 7, 2010 in Caselaw, Climate, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Judicial Review, Nuisance, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yellin on the Case for a Reliance Interest in Economic Development Takings

David S. Yellin (JD candidate, Georgetown) has posted Masters of Their Own Eminent Domain: The Case for a Reliance Interest Associated with Economic Development Takings, forthcoming in the Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 99 (2011).  The abstract:

When the Supreme Court, in Kelo v. City of New London, held that economic development was a valid justification for the use of eminent domain, there was a massive public outcry. In the resulting backlash, many communities enacted legislation aimed at restricting economic development takings, but most of these reforms were largely symbolic and had little or no actual effect on such takings. This Note accepts the reality that economic development takings will inevitably occur, and identifies the greatest threat associated with such takings as the risk that when they do they may cause more harm than good. For example, after the failure of the development project at issue in Kelo, Pfizer has recently announced that they will be shutting down their facility in New London, Connecticut, taking 1,400 jobs with them. As a result, the price New London paid by condemning the homes of its residents has been for nothing and the city is left even worse off than before.

This Note analogizes the failures of eminent domain takings to some of the harms that arose during the rash of plant shut-downs in the 1980s and early 1990s. Faced with the loss of the foundations of local economies, municipalities and scholars alike tried to come up with ways to protect the reliance that communities place in economic actors. This Note argues that although many of these proposals were not suitable for responding to the problems of plant closings, they are well-suited to use in the takings context. To that end, I discuss key differences between the two scenarios that justify applying some of the most progressive of these proposals in the takings context. Specifically, I propose that courts recognize a reliance interest, similar to an easement, which gives a municipality a legally enforceable right against corporate entities that benefit from economic development takings.

Matt Festa

December 2, 2010 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Judicial Review, Local Government, Property Rights, Remedies, Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hill on Property and the Public Forum

Jessie Hill (Case Western) has posted Property and the Public Forum: An Essay on Christian Legal Society V. Martinez, from a symposium of the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy (2010).  The abstract:

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez is situated at the intersection of various, and arguably conflicting, lines of doctrine. In ultimately holding that the Hastings College of Law could decline to recognize the student chapter of the Christian Legal Society due to the group’s refusal to accept members who did not conform their beliefs and conduct to the principles of CLS (particularly regarding homosexuality),the Supreme Court was required to sort through a tangle of precedents involving free speech limitations in nonpublic fora, religious groups’ rights of equal access to school facilities, and freedom of expressive association.

Perhaps less obviously, however, CLS also stands in relation to Pleasant Grove City v. Summum and Salazar v. Buono, two other recent Roberts Court cases. In CLS, as in Summum and Buono, the Supreme Court turned to property - both as a metaphor and as a doctrinal tool - to resolve difficult and multifaceted constitutional questions. Although the relationship between First Amendment rights and property rights is a long-standing one, the Court seems to have turned to property with a renewed enthusiasm in these three recent cases. And although the property framework may appear to hold the promise of simplicity, neutrality, and avoidance of difficult policy questions, this brief essay, prepared for a special online symposium issue of the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy, argues that it fails to deliver on those promises. Instead, property analysis obscures the complex First Amendment issues behind seemingly easy categorical judgments and grants the government virtually unlimited power to exclude undesired speakers and groups. Notwithstanding the Court’s approach, the crux of the issue is, and has always been, when First Amendment values should overcome the forum owner’s right to exclude. That is a question the Court seems increasingly loath to resolve.

This paper reinforces my point about land use and constitutional law!  I think it's fascinating that while Stop the Beach was the only traditional property rights case before the Court last year, as Hill points out CLS, Salazar, and Summum have applied property law to First Amendment issues.  

Matt Festa

November 23, 2010 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Judicial Review, Property, Scholarship, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zick on the Vocality of Public Places and the Public Forum

Timothy Zick (William & Mary) has posted "Summum," the Vocality of Public Places, and the Public Forum, forthcoming in Brigham Young University Law Review, 2011.  The abstract:

This contribution to a symposium on the emerging complexities of government speech focuses on Pleasant Grove City v. Summum. Summum is a remarkable decision in several respects. It represents many firsts in terms of the Supreme Court's public speech jurisprudence: First to hold that the public forum doctrine is out of place in a public park (a traditional public forum); first to treat a public park as a channel of governmental speech; and first to expressly engage the communicative aspects (the vocality) of public place. Because the Court dispatched the public forum doctrine so quickly, one might think the decision has nothing much to say about the concept or status of the public forum. To the contrary, this piece contends that a close reading of Summum shows that the decision’s analysis and rationale may have a substantial effect on private speech rights in public places. The government speaker is not like any other speaker in a park or other public place. Its voice is louder, and its right to remain is stronger, than that of any private speaker. Most importantly, of course, government speakers have the power to exclude other voices. This piece argues that the Court’s conception of public places as channels of governmental speech, its heavy reliance on the analogy of private property ownership, and its suggestion that public places such as parks themselves convey governmental identity claims threaten to undermine fundamental tenets of the public forum concept and to limit private speech in public places.

Matt Festa

November 18, 2010 in Aesthetic Regulation, Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Federal Government, First Amendment, Judicial Review, Local Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Signs, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fanizzo on Separation of Powers, Federal Land Management, and the Antiquities Act

Kelly Y. Fanizzo (Temple) has posted Separation of Powers and Federal Land Management: Enforcing the Direction of the President under the Antiquities Act, from Environmental Law, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2010 .  The abstract:

When can a third party sue to force an executive agency to take an action in compliance with the direction of the President? In 2001, President Bill Clinton designated a half million acre national monument in southeastern Arizona and ordered the Bureau of Land Management to study whether cattle grazing would harm the significant historic and scientific sites he intended to protect. The Bureau allowed grazing to continue without doing the study. A non-profit conservation group, the Western Watersheds Project, sued the Bureau to implement Clinton’s orders. The group asked the court to exercise its authority under the Administrative Procedure Act to compel agency action unlawfully withheld and set aside arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful agency action. The Bureau responded that judicial review was not available to enforce its compliance. This article argues that courts should enforce the terms of such presidential proclamations when third parties sue the non-compliant agency. The intent of Congress in delegating to the President the ability to act quickly and reserve public lands for certain uses and not others and the broad deference given by the courts to the exercise of presidential discretion at the time of the designation support the application of this judicial review. Set against the backdrop of preserving our national cultural heritage, this case highlights the respective, and at times, overlapping roles of the executive, legislative, and judicial branch in federal land management.

Matt Festa

November 7, 2010 in Agriculture, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, History, Judicial Review, Politics, Property, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Decision on Open Beaches Act / Rolling Easement case (Severance v. Patterson)

The Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion today in Severance v. Patterson, a case that the Fifth Circuit certified on questions of interpreting state property law and the Texas Open Beaches Act (provisions which last year became part of the Texas Constitution).  The plaintiff owned beachfront property that ended up forward of the vegetation line after the damage wrought by Hurricane Rita in 2005.  The state informed her that her houses were now on the public easement and that the houses could be subject to a removal order.  The plaintiff claimed both a Fifth Amendment taking and, unusually, a Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure.  The Fifth Circuit held the takings claim unripe but certified three questions to the Texas Supreme Court:

1.  Does Texas recognize a “rolling” public beachfront access easement, i.e., an easement in favor of the public that allows access to and use of the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, the boundary of which easement migrates solely according to naturally caused changes in the location of the vegetation line, without proof of prescription, dedication or customary rights in the property so occupied? 

2.  If Texas recognizes such an easement, is it derived from common law doctrines or from a construction of the [Open Beaches Act]?

3.  To what extent, if any, would a landowner be entitled to receive compensation (other than the amount already offered for removal of the houses) under Texas’s law or Constitution for the limitations on use of her property effected by the landward migration of a rolling easement onto property on which no public easement has been found by dedication, prescription, or custom?

The Court held (6-2) that the Act does not establish a rolling easement, at least to the extent that the state asserted--essentially siding with the plaintiff:

On this issue of first impression, we hold that Texas does not recognize a “rolling” easement on Galveston’s West Beach.  Easements for public use of private dry beach property do change along with gradual and imperceptible changes to the coastal landscape.  But, avulsive events such as storms and hurricanes that drastically alter pre-existing littoral boundaries do not have the effect of allowing a public use easement to migrate onto previously unencumbered property.  This holding shall not be applied to use the avulsion doctrine to upset the long-standing boundary between public and private ownership at the mean high tide line.  That result would be unworkable, leaving ownership boundaries to mere guesswork.  The division between public and private ownership remains at the mean high tide line in the wake of naturally occurring changes, even when boundaries seem to change suddenly. The State, as always, may act within a valid exercise of police power to impose reasonable regulations on coastal property or prove the existence of an easement for public use, consistent with the Texas Constitution and real property law.

Full disclosure: I submitted an amicus brief in the case.  My position is that the rolling easement question can only be reached with respect to properties where the state has first established that the public has a beach access easement through the traditional common law doctrines of (1) dedication, (2) prescription, or (3) custom.  In other words, the statute does not establish a statewide beach access easement; it only purports to prescribe rules for easements otherwise established.  Keep in mind that the public trust doctrine that many of us learn about (e.g. the Matthews case from NJ) does not apply here, as the Court noted, devoting much of its opinion to tracing the historical lineage of title to Texas coastal lands.  I'm as much for public beach access as anyone, but regardless of whether the easement rolls inward with the vegetation line, the state still has to establish that there is an easement in the first place.  

Now the case heads back to the Fifth Circuit, and we are left with a very significant ruling interpreting the Open Beaches Act.  Many will criticize the opinion, which could make it much more difficult, practically and/or financially, for the state to establish public beach easements.  The opinion also seems to leave undecided where to draw the line between merely "gradual" changes in the high tide line and more "dramatic" changes due to avulsion.  It will be seen as a big win for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented the plaintiff, and by other libertarian and property rights advocates.  The opinion cites Stop the Beach as well as a host of other famous land use cases, and will be of interest to those working on coastal land use and property rights generally.

Here are some links:

The majority opinion (Wainwright, J.)

The dissent (Medina, J.)

The video of the oral argument (courtesy of St. Mary's Law School)

The Texas Supreme Court's web page for the case with links to all briefs.

The Fifth Circuit's opinion

The Texas Open Beaches Act

Land Use Prof Blog analysis

My amicus curiae brief

The Houston Chronicle's initial writeup

Texas Lawyer article Battle for the Beach

The Pacific Legal Foundation press release (David Breemer, counsel for plaintiff)

The Surfrider Foundation (amicus brief written with assistance from one of my students)

[UPDATED from original post at 11:00 pm]

Matt Festa

November 5, 2010 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Inverse Condemnation, Judicial Review, Property Rights, State Government, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arnold on The Evolution of Property Law, Culture, and Ecology in Coastal Lands

Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold (Louisville) has posted Legal Castles in the Sand: The Evolution of Property Law, Culture, and Ecology in Coastal Lands, forthcoming in Syracuse Law Review, Vol. 61, No. 2 (2010-11).  The abstract:

U.S. society frequently turns to property law to mediate the various social and ecological dynamics of complex and evolving environments like coastal areas, which are places of transition subject to both natural and human changes. Furthermore, U.S. society frequently turns to constitutional takings doctrines to mediate the dynamics of property law. However, property law and takings cases can be maladaptive to the evolutionary dynamics of coastal lands when they fail to contemplate the ecological and social conditions and dynamics of the objects of property rights and takings claims. In particular, legal abstractions, such as the metaphor of property as a “bundle of rights,” disconnect property and takings law from its context and real-world functions. 

An example of three maladaptive responses to coastal land management can be found in the three opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court in Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In the case, all eight participating Justices agreed that the Florida Supreme Court’s validation of the State of Florida’s establishment of a boundary-fixing “erosion control line” was not a radical departure from Florida precedent on coastal land ownership rights. However, the Court split 4-4 over whether the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution creates a potential claim of a “judicial taking,” producing three different opinions about judicial takings and the relationships of federal courts to state judicial changes in property law. In each of the three opinions in Stop the Beach Renourishment, the Justices have built “legal castles in the sand”: artificial constructs that will not stand up to the inevitability of change. Each opinion is poorly suited for mediating property issues in coastal lands because it is built on a legal-centric abstraction mismatched to the complex realities of coastal land use. 

This article argues that courts should shape property doctrines and decide takings cases with regard for the concrete context in which those doctrines and cases arise, particularly ecological and socio-cultural dynamics. A strong theory of judicial takings, just like many sweeping and aggressive protections of private property autonomy and power, is likely to over-protect private property. However, a weak theory of judicial takings, just like many sweeping and aggressive protections of government or public authority and power, is likely to under-protect private property. In both cases, serious harms to both ecological health and integrity and socio-cultural health and integrity are likely, even if the specific harms vary. The issue is not resistance to change versus unconstrained and rapid change. Instead, the issue is about identifying and facilitating change that is right for and adaptive to the particular evolving context in which the tensions over property interests, land uses, and legal institutions arise. In particular, the object-regarding and context-considering concept of property as a “web of interests” is likely to be more adaptive to change within complex and interconnected ecological and social systems, particularly in sensitive environments like coastal lands, than property concepts that rely on legal-centric abstractions.

Matt Festa

November 4, 2010 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, History, Judicial Review, Land Trust, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Barros on the Complexities of Judicial Takings

Benjamin Barros (Widener)--the Property Prof Blogger--has posted The Complexities of Judicial Takings.  The abstract:

In last term’s Stop the Beach Renourishment Inc. v. Florida DEP, the Supreme Court for the first time squarely confronted the question of whether a judicial action could ever be considered an unconstitutional taking of private property. The Court unanimously rejected the judicial takings claim, but the justices issued a highly fragmented set of opinions. No justice was able to command a majority on any of the major conceptual issues presented by the judicial takings question. As a result, the Court dramatically raised the profile of judicial takings question, but left all of the major issues open.

In this article, I argue that the judicial takings issues are even more complicated than the Court’s fractured opinions suggest. In particular, I argue that three factual distinctions among types of cases that largely were ignored in Stop the Beach can lead to dramatically different outcomes in matters of judicial takings standards, procedures, and remedies. I analyze each of the substantive and procedural issues raised by judicial takings in light of these factual distinctions. Along the way, I argue that judicial takings does not require a unique standard different from the Court’s existing takings standards, and that judicial takings (and regulatory takings more broadly) should apply to government actions that mandate transfers of private property to public ownership, but not to government actions that mandate transfers of property between private persons.

Matt Festa

October 30, 2010 in Beaches, Caselaw, Judicial Review, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)