All of me… why not take all of me?

While driving to work today, the satellite radio station proffered All of Me for my listening pleasure. All of Me is a popular jazz standard written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. Longtime blog readers won’t be surprised to find out I’m partial to Sinatra’s version of the song, but many legendary artists have performed it. The song begins:

All of me
Why not take all of me?

Can’t you see that
I’m no good without you?

While enjoying my daily pleasure trip to the office this morning, those first few lines of the song reminded me of a property rights case arising in the beautiful Florida Keys.

No, seriously.

In the case the song reminded me of, the City of Marathon and the State of Florida both believe that if they’re going to take someone’s property, why not take all of it? That’s what Gordon and Molly Beyer found out when they purchased a nine-acre island called Bamboo Key in the early 1970s. At the time the Beyers purchased it, they possessed development rights to build nine homes on those nine acres. But by the time the government finished with them twenty-plus years later in the 1990s, the government said (paraphrasing):

Yes, you did have rights to build on that island, so it made sense that you paid for the island. Unfortunately, we’ve reconsidered. We won’t allow you to build bupkis. Instead, we’re going to declare your nine acres a bird rookery. But we’ll let you camp there!

And with that, the State and City of Marathon took all of the Beyers’ valuable property, and left them with almost nothing in return.

The government may have thought it was no good without (recall the song lyrics) the Beyers’ property, but that’s not the way the Beyers saw it. So they sued. And remarkably, nearly twenty years later, the Beyers find themselves still fighting for their property.

The local trial court, and appeals court, both have held that the government can take their property and leave the Beyers with nothing but a campsite, and some bureaucratic gobbledy-gook called transferable development rights, that may or may not amount to even one red cent of real value, and nothing else. Remarkably, the courts in Florida haven’t gotten the message from the Florida Legislature, and the Constitution, that property owners must receive just compensation when the government takes private property by executive fiat.

Pacific Legal Foundation, on the other hand, thinks the Fifth Amendment still means something. For that reason, we plan to take the Beyers’ case to the Florida Supreme Court, and then, if necessary, the Supreme Court of the United States. We will fight to make sure the Beyers either find themselves able to use their property as they had the right to do, or justly compensated for the taking. Compensated with bread, cheese, greenbacks, semolians, filthy lucre, dough—what we still call cold-hard cash in these great United States. Not “compensated” with “points,” or “transferable development rights,” or whatever latest euphemism the bureaucrats have come up with to take your property unconstitutionally.

When PLF takes the government to court, something’s gotta give (to quote another classic standard).  And in our experience, it’s usually the government either giving property back to property owners, or justly compensating those property owners for the taking.

To end today’s trip down melody lane, I thought I’d share The Muppets’ unique version of All of Me, which brings new meaning to the concept of taking “all of me”…

See you in court.