Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Property Owner Argues Florida Supreme Court Significantly Limits Protections Outlined by U.S. Supreme Court

Last month, I reviewed the arguments being made in the Koontz case, which the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to review. In that case, a landowner sued after being denied a permit when he refused to fund improvements miles away from his property on land owned by the agency issuing the permit. The Florida Supreme Court declined to recognize an exaction, holding that U.S. Supreme Court precedent on exactions only applies to real property where a permit was actually issued and the exaction imposed.

The petitioner has filed a brief in reply to last month's opposition brief from the St. Johns River Water Management District. In its opposition brief, the District had argued that the U.S. Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because the petitioner did not initially allege a federal takings claim, and that even if it did, there was no important question of federal law to be answered.

The Pacific Legal Foundation does a good job in keeping its brief concise and avoiding getting bogged down in the details. On the first point, the petitioner argues:
The Opposition, however, insists that this Court does not have jurisdiction over a state court’s determination of federal constitutional law because the complaint alleged only a violation of the state constitution. The District is wrong. For the purpose of establishing this Court’s jurisdiction, it is irrelevant when a federal claim was raised in the proceedings below so long as the state court of last resort did, in fact, rule on the federal question. It is enough that the state court “reached and decided” the federal constitutional questions.
The petitioner further argues that the federal question reached and decided by the Florida Supreme Court is an important one because:
The Florida Supreme Court adopted two per se rules of federal takings law that significantly limit the protections guaranteed by Nollan and  Dolan. First, the court concluded that, as a matter of law, the nexus and proportionality tests will never apply to an excessive exaction of money or any other non-real property. And second, the court held that Nollan and Dolan will not apply where the government denies a permit application because the landowner refuses to accede to an excessive exaction. Each of these rulings raises “an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court.” In addition, the Florida court’s resolution of these questions conflicts with decisions of this Court, and conflicts with decisions from other state courts of last resort and federal courts of appeals.
The U.S. Supreme Court docket shows that the Court will decide whether the hear this case during its September 24th conference.