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June 26, 2013

Another Historic Victory for Property Owners

Supreme Court rules for PLF’s property rights case in Florida

Score another huge win for the nation’s property owners!

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, Pacific Legal Foundation’s seventh consecutive victory at the High Court, gives clients Coy Jr. and Linda Koontz, and other property owners, assurances that government bureaucrats can’t use the land use permitting process as an excuse to shake them down.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 opinion, handed Coy Koontz Jr. a major victory against a Florida agency — the St. Johns River Water Management District — that attempted to extort money from him in the land use permitting process. The court reversed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court that had held for the agency.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Koontz is one of the most important property rights cases to reach the High Court in decades. It brings a successful end to the long property rights battle that started when Coy’s father sought a permit to develop a small commercially zoned parcel near Orlando.

The late Coy Koontz Sr. had sought a development permit for three acres he owned in Orange County, Florida. Even though he agreed to dedicate most of his land — 11 acres — for conservation, the St. Johns River Water Management District demanded money — up to $150,000 — for costly upgrades to government property miles away from his land. Mr. Koontz sued, but passed away in 2000. His son has carried on the legal fight and PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II argued the case at the High Court in January.

Government can’t use land use permitting process as “extortion machine”

PLF Podcast Now PlayingListen to PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II discuss our lawsuit in this podcast.
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“The ruling is a powerful victory for everybody’s constitutional property rights, from coast to coast,” said Beard. “The Koontz family was challenging permit demands that were wildly excessive and had no connection to their land use proposal. Today, the Court recognized that the Koontz family was the victim of an unconstitutional taking. The Court’s message is clear: Government can’t turn the land use permitting process into an extortion machine.”

“The Court has recognized that money is a form of property, and the Constitution prohibits grabbing money from property owners the same way it prohibits grabbing land without compensation,” Beard added.

Our back-to-back Supreme Court victories prove the power of your charitable gifts!

Coy and Linda Koontz, PLF Supreme Court clientsThe Koontz victory comes on the heels of another landmark ruling for property owners. Last year, PLF attorneys won a unanimous victory in Sackett v. EPA at the Supreme Court, in which justices held that property owners have a right to challenge federal “wetlands compliance orders” in court.

As with all our clients, donor-supported PLF represented the Koontz family without charge in challenging the unconstitutional infringement of their property rights.

"Not only is this a victory for my family’s long fight for our property rights, it is also a victory for all property owners in Florida and nationwide.”

“I’m ecstatic about this decision,” stated Coy Koontz Jr. “Not only is it a victory for my family’s long fight for our property rights, it is also a victory for all property owners in Florida and nationwide. It will give all property owners the power to fight back when government makes unjust demands on them. I am very grateful to Pacific Legal Foundation for getting this case to the U.S. Supreme Court and winning such a decisive victory.”

Now in our 40th year of service of rescuing liberty from coast to coast, Pacific Legal Foundation draws its courtroom power and gives Americans like Coy Koontz Jr. a voice against oppressive government bureaucrats on the strength of your charitable gifts.

Join us in celebrating this monumental day for liberty! Keep us strong for fighting and winning more victories for limited government and our constitutional rights with a generous donation.

Rob Rivett
Pacific Legal Foundation

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