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PLF At Issue

December, 2012
 

PLF is back at the High Court, with another case for liberty and limited government!

Our eighth U.S. Supreme Court case can set a major precedent for property rights

Coy Koontz, Jr, Mary Koontz, and Coy Sr
Left to right: Coy Koontz Jr., Mary Koontz, the late Coy Koontz, Sr.

More than 10,000 cases are appealed to the United States Supreme Court each year, but fewer than 100 are accepted — less than one percent.

Now, another PLF case — the eighth in our history — has made it into that select circle.

The Court’s announcement that it will hear PLF’s case of Koontz v. St. Johns River Management District came only months after the unanimous ruling in our last Supreme Court caseSackett v. EPA, where we established that EPA is answerable to the courts when it hits property owners with onerous “wetlands mitigation orders.”

As with our past High Court victories, the Koontz case could result in a precedent-setting decision for liberty!

In addition to this Supreme Court announcement, the importance of PLF’s mission was also driven home by the elections. D.C.’s “status quo” was left in place, with less hope for pro-freedom reforms from elected officials. More than ever, PLF’s work in the courts — including the Supreme Court — is where the action is!

In the Koontz case, the family we’re defending was hit with a government extortion scheme when they sought a land use permit for their property in central Florida. Their case is important for all property owners. It follows up on PLF’s landmark victory at the Supreme Court 25 years ago, in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission.

Nollan held that the permitting process can’t be used to extort and extract concessions that have no relationship to the development proposal.

The Koontz case asks: Does Nollan prohibit confiscatory demands for money as well as land?

Our client, Coy Koontz Jr., is carrying on the fight for property rights and constitutional principles that his father, Coy Sr., waged heroically for a decade before he passed away.

Government’s extortionate demands

For years, Coy Koontz, Sr. sought to develop a few acres of land in Orange County, Florida. But the St. Johns River Water Management District refused permission, because Mr. Koontz would not agree to costly and unjustified conditions.

Mr. Koontz offered to dedicate 11 acres of his own land in the vicinity (nearly 80 percent of his property) to the state for conservation. But the District was not satisfied. Instead, it demanded that Mr. Koontz pay to replace culverts and plug ditches on District property up to seven miles away — at a cost of up to $150,000!

“The District never demonstrated how the off-site improvement of 50 acres of wetlands on government lands was related to the alleged impact of Mr. Koontz’s proposed development on little more than three acres of his own property,” said PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II.

After Florida’s Supreme Court turns a blind eye to a taking, PLF takes the fight to U.S. Supreme Court

Mr. Koontz refused the District’s unreasonable demand — so the District denied his permit.

He sued, arguing that his Fifth Amendment rights had been violated. But he passed away before the litigation moved forward through the courts.

Although the trial and appellate courts ruled for the Koontz family’s claim for damages, the Florida Supreme Court reversed, denying that an unconstitutional taking had occurred.

So, Coy Koontz Jr. turned to PLF for help, as so many landowners have done before.

Principal Attorney Paul J Beard II in Koontz
Paul J. Beard II, PLF Principal Attorney

“We petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, because the Koontz family was victimized and needed help, and important constitutional rights were at stake,” said Beard. “The District used the permit process for its own gain, not for a reasonable regulatory purpose.”

“I am very grateful to PLF, because what happened to my father and my family shouldn’t happen to any property owner,” said Coy Koontz Jr.

“Property owners large and small, from coast to coast, should be thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted this important property rights case,” said Beard.

“If the Koontz family can be hit with the rip-off that happened in this case, then everybody’s property rights are at risk. The Koontz family merely wanted to exercise their rights as property owners, to develop the family’s land in legal and responsible ways. But regulators saw a chance to pounce and make all kinds of costly, unrelated, outrageous demands. This was a flat-out shakedown. The Supreme Court is to be applauded for deciding to weigh in on this injustice.”

PLF is America’s leading defender of property rights — and our donors make it all possible!

When Paul Beard stands up at the Supreme Court to argue the Koontz case this winter, he’ll be defending a family that was targeted by a greedy government agency. But he’ll also be speaking on behalf of our thousands of liberty-loving supporters from coast to coast.

It’s our donors who make PLF America’s premier defender of property rights.

PLF’s work has changed the landscape of the law — and the course of American history — and with the Koontz case, we’re preparing to do so again! THANK YOU! Please be generous so we can keep “rescuing liberty” — from county courts all the way to the Supreme Court!

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Rob Rivett signature
Rob Rivett
President
Pacific Legal Foundation

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