Executive Vice President
PLF Northwest Center
Land Use Regulation
Mr. Groen has extensive experience in public policy litigation before all levels of federal and state courts. While finishing law school, he began clerking at Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) and in 1987 became a Fellow in the PLF College of Public Interest Law. He stayed at PLF as a staff attorney until 1996.
In 1992, Mr. Groen developed a fund raising plan to launch a litigating branch office of PLF located in the Pacific Northwest. After a successful start, John continued as the Managing Attorney in Bellevue until 2002, and then transitioned to senior legal consultant until 2005.
Mr. Groen also ventured into private practice in 1996 with the formation of the law firm that became Groen Stephens & Klinge LLP. His work focused on land use issues and takings claims arising from government regulation of private property. He has been directly involved in many of the leading appellate decisions that have shaped significant aspects of land use law in Washington. A sampling of cases include Skamania County and Brian and Jody Bea v. Columbia River Gorge Commission, 144 Wash.2d 30 (2001) (Gorge Commission could not invalidate County-approved building permit after appeal period expired); Nykreim v. Chelan County, 146 Wash. 2d 904 (2002) (enforcing doctrine of finality in land use permitting); Margola Associates v. City of Seattle, 121 Wash.2d 625 (1993) (remand for trial whether housing fee was unlawful tax or regulatory fee); Smoke v. City of Seattle, 132 Wash.2d 625 (1997) (interpretation letter from City not required to exhaust administrative remedies); Fitzpatrick v. Okanogan County, 169 Wash.2d 598 (2010) (reversing dismissal of inverse condemnation claim caused by government dike that changed the course of a river and washed away owners’ property). Mr. Groen also brings extensive experience before the Court of Federal Claims in takings cases against the federal government particularly in the “rails to trails” context. Beres v. United States, 104 Fed. Cl. 408 (2012) (scope of easements was exceeded by government conversion of railroad right-of-way to public recreation trail, as required for establishing taking claim); Beres v. United States, 64 Fed. Cl. 403 (2005) (United States did not retain reversionary interest in land granted under the General Railroad Act of 1875).
Mr. Groen is a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences for continuing education of the Bar. He also has served for many years as a member of the Legal Trust Committee for the Building Industry Association of Washington, and was appointed to the 2007-08 King County Charter Review Commission.
In 2006, Mr. Groen ran for statewide election challenging the incumbent Chief Justice on the Washington Supreme Court. He gained the endorsement of the Republican Party and numerous business organizations and built a network of support throughout the state. Although he lost a very close election, the experience was invaluable. In particular, Mr. Groen appreciated the many volunteers and new friends he made during the campaign.
Most recently, Mr. Groen served for approximately two years as a Trustee on the Pacific Legal Foundation Board of Trustees. Mr. Groen’s passion is to litigate in defense of private property rights so he is excited to have returned to the litigation team as a Senior Attorney in the PLF Property Rights Section.
Admitted to the State Bars of Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, as well as various Federal District Courts within those jurisdictions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Groen received his law degree in 1987 from McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, graduating with Order of the Coif honors. In 1981, John graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He competed nationally as debate team captain and was senior class president.
The Takings Clause In Brief, 8 SAN FRANCISCO BARRISTER LAW JOURNAL, No. 12, 21, December 1989. Takings Law, Lucas, and the Growth Management Act, 16 UNIVERSITY OF PUGET SOUND LAW REVIEW, 1259, Spring 1993. Dolan v. City of Tigard, The Next Step in "Takings" Law, 21 ENVIRONMENTAL & LAND-USE LAW NEWSLETTER 4, Aug. 1994. Damages Actions, chapter in Washington Trial Lawyers' Practice Manual (2001).