Friday, June 18, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Says State Did Not "Take" Beachfront

Jun 17: The U.S. Supreme Court considered a "takings" case from the State of Florida -- Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection -- Case No. 08–1151. The opinion indicates, "We consider a claim that the decision of a State's court of last resort took property without just compensation in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as applied against the States through the Fourteenth." Justice Scalia announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, IV, and V, in which Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II and III, in which Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito joined. Justice Kennedy filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Sotomayor joined. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Ginsburg joined. Justice Stevens took no part in the decision of the case.
        In deciding the case, the High Court said, "Petitioner argues that the Florida Supreme Court took two of the property rights of the Members by declaring that those rights did not exist: the right to accretions, and the right to have littoral property touch the water (which petitioner distinguishes from the mere right of access to the water). Under petitioner's theory, because no prior Florida decision had said that the State's filling of sub-merged tidal lands could have the effect of depriving a littoral owner of contact with the water and denying him future accretions, the Florida Supreme Court's judgment in the present case abolished those two easements to which littoral property owners had been entitled. This puts the burden on the wrong party. There is no taking unless petitioner can show that, before the Florida Supreme Court's decision, littoral-property owners had rights to future accretions and contact with the water superior to the State's right to fill in its submerged land. Though some may think the question close, in our view the show-ing cannot be made. . .

    "Because the Florida Supreme Court's decision did not contravene the established property rights of petitioner's Members, Florida has not violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The judgment of the Florida Supreme Court is therefore affirmed."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). Access various media reports on the decision (click here).