Thursday, March 10, 2016

In Cementing Koontz's Legacy, the Florida Supreme Court Shows Why Taxpayers Will Foot an Enormous Bill for Government's Mistakes

Recently, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the Koontz case yet again. Too bad for taxpayers that it took the Court eighteen months to make a decision.

Recall that, in the long Koontz saga, in 1994, the government agreed to issue a permit to fill wetlands if the landowner paid to improve government culverts miles away. The landowner refused and sued when the government denied the permit. A decade ago, in 2006, the trial court found a taking and awarded $477,000 in just compensation.

The Florida Supreme Court said the landowner could only challenge the unreasonable permit demand after giving in to it. The U.S. Supreme Court, though, ruled for landowners (1) that the Nollan-Dolan exactions test applies even where a permit is denied because an applicant rejects an exaction, and (2) that the Nollan-Dolan exactions test applies to exactions other than real property, such as where a permit applicant is required to pay for work. Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., 133 S.Ct. 2586 (2013). 

Not long afterwards, in late 2013, the Florida Supreme Court punted the case back to the appellate court for further proceedings. The 5th DCA made short work of the remand:
Because our decision in Koontz IV is entirely consistent with the decision of the United States Supreme Court, we adopt and reaffirm Koontz IV in its entirety and affirm the judgment below. We deny Appellant's request to reopen the briefing. The constitutional issues decided by the United States Supreme Court were fully briefed here, and that Court's holding does not set forth a new legal construct with which we must re-analyze these issues. To the extent that Appellant seeks to brief the state law issues left open by the Supreme Court, we conclude that those issues were either disposed of in Koontz I or Koontz IV, or they were not preserved and presented in those proceedings. 
Yet again, in June 2014, the government asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the case. Over a year and a half later, the Florida Supreme Court has finally concluded this long saga, and the Koontz family will now return to the trial court to collect their just compensation. 

Which leads us to the difficult part for taxpayers: once the government made a bad decision, it doubled down for over twenty years. Now, taxpayers will be stuck not only with the bill for those bad decisions, but also the bill for the Koontz family's attorneys to prove that and the interest for the past two decades.