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January 9, 2013

Next Tuesday: We’re at the U.S. Supreme Court for property rights!

Seeking justice from the justices — for the Koontz family, and property owners everywhere

Koontz Live Tweet #PLFKoontzOn that morning, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear one of the most important property rights cases in years — the PLF case of Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District.

PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II will be arguing on behalf of a family that was hit with a public sector shakedown — and decided to fight back.

Although this case concerns a local Florida agency’s injustice against the late Coy Koontz, Sr., and his family, it’s about property rights nationwide.

At issue: Can regulators use the land use permitting power to extort money for government’s own gain? Can they force permit applicants to fill government piggy banks or fund programs that have nothing to do with the owner’s proposed land use?

PLF Podcast Now PlayingListen to a discussion of the Smith case with PLF’s Jennifer Fry.
Don't have iTunes? Listen to the podcast online.

A PLF podcast lays out the case that we’re making in our briefs — and at the High Court next week.

We’re facing down the Obama Administration — in defense of property rights

One sign of the nationwide importance of the Koontz case: The Obama Administration has weighed in against us. The Administration has filed a friend of the court brief for the bureaucracy that tried to extort the Koontzes — and against PLF’s fight to protect property owners from government arm-twisting.

The saga of this case begins more than 15 years ago, when the now deceased Coy Koontz, Sr., asked for permission to commercially develop about four acres of land in Orange County, Florida.

The St. Johns River Water Management District set a price: Mr. Koontz would have to dedicate 11 acres for conservation and pay up to $150,000 for improvements on the district’s own property.

Mr. Koontz was willing to dedicate the 11 acres, but he objected to paying for work at the government site, which was miles away, with no connection to his property or project. So, his permit application was denied.

A family’s commitment to constitutional rights brings them to the U.S. Supreme Court

Coy Jr. and Linda KoontzThe Koontz family sued over this payoff demand. After Coy Koontz, Sr., passed away, Coy, Jr., continued the fight, and, represented by PLF, the case has been taken by the nation’s highest court.

We’re building on our landmark victory 26 years ago in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, where the Supreme Court first held that the permitting process can’t be used for shakedowns. We’re urging the Supreme Court to tell bureaucrats everywhere that the Fifth Amendment bans extortion of money and other resources, not just real property.

Just how arrogant is the bureaucracy that tried to coerce money from the Koontzes? Coy Koontz, Jr., and his wife, Linda, relay a story of being in an elevator with one of the government’s witnesses who had just testified during one of the hearings in the case. When asked why the agency hadn’t just purchased the property outright, the witness stated, “why would we buy the property when we can get it for free?” This kind of calculated, callous disregard for Americans’ property rights is why PLF fights so vigorously to defend our Constitution — and the rights of all Americans to be free from government abuse!

We’ve been “rescuing liberty” for 40 years — please help us celebrate!

PLF 40th AnniversaryWe’re celebrating our 40th Anniversary with a Gala at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library* on March 2, 2013, joined by George F. Will and Michael Reagan. For information, visit www.pacificlegal.org/40thAnniversary, or contact Jennifer Rohde at (916) 419-7111 or email at jlr@pacificlegal.org.

And you can mark the New Year with a commitment to freedom, by making a generous donation to PLF and our never-ending fight to “rescue liberty from coast to coast”!

*Views and opinions expressed by Pacific Legal Foundation are not necessarily shared by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation.

Rob Rivett
Pacific Legal Foundation

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