Upcoming SCOTUS Case—Can Judges Take Your Property?

Posted: Dec 01, 2009 9:00 AM
Guest post from Townhall contributor Ken Klukowski

This Wed., Dec. 2, the Supreme Court will hear the first major property-rights case since the infamous Kelo v. New London, Conn., decision. In the case Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Fla. Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Supreme Court will face the issue of what rights you have when there is a court-ordered property taking by state government.

Florida law provides for the state pouring fresh sand to rebuild beaches. Under traditional law, a person with beachfront property owns as private property the land up to the high-tide point of the water. Beyond that, and into the water, it’s public land.

By building the beach with additional sand, the government has pushed the land boundary outwards. But the homeowners’ property line doesn’t extend out with the new land. So now, what once was beachfront property is now landlocked property with an up-close view of a newly-created public—not private—beach.

The landowners sued, and the Florida Supreme Court held that the landowners no longer have beachfront property rights. These homeowners have suffered a loss of property for which they paid a lot of money, but the Florida court said they’re not entitled either to the property or to be compensated for their loss.

That flies in the face of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states that the government cannot take private property for public use unless they give fair-market value to the owners to compensate them for their loss. That constitutional guarantee makes this an important case for American homeowners.

Ken Klukowski, fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union, covers the U.S. Supreme Court for Townhall.com