Hearing in San Jose next week for mobile home case

PLF will be in federal court in San Jose next week defending its case on behalf of the Jisser family from the city’s motion to dismiss the case. The Jissers filed their federal lawsuit last November, challenging the City of Palo Alto’s unconstitutional demand that they pay millions of dollars to their tenants before being allowed to close their mobilehome park business. They have a right to close the park under California law.

However, in exchange for the permit to close, the city demanded that the Jissers choose between two evils. Either they accept an uncompensated taking of their money by paying more than $8 million to their tenants to get new housing, or they would be denied a permit to close their park and be forced to run it forever (i.e., submit to an uncompensated taking of the right to exclude unwanted tenants from their land). Continue reading

Lemonade stand freedom coming to Louisiana

By now I’m sure you’ve heard a story about an overzealous 150713_CA_LEMONADEhealth inspector or police officer ticketing a harmless child for having the nerve to operate a lemonade stand without a license or permit. Not even Jerry Seinfeld’s kids are immune from strict enforcement. Fortunately, a refreshing ounce of common sense came out of Louisiana yesterday. Continue reading

Spokeo v. Robins: What lies ahead?

Yesterday’s Daily Journal published my take on Monday’s Supreme Court decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, which held that the constitutional requirement that federal courts hear only real “cases or controversies” demands that plaintiffs show some sort of “concrete” injury.  Beyond explaining the context and extent of the Court’s holding, I explain the importance of the holding in future class actions brought to enforce statutory commands.


On Brown v. Board of Education‘s anniversary, PLF continues to fight for racial equality

Today marks the 62nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In Brown, the Court unanimously rejected the sordid notion of “separate but equal,” and prohibited the government from treating students differently on the basis of race. Continue reading

Good news for conservation: Feds abandon lesser prairie chicken appeal

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it was abandoning its appeal of a federal court ruling overturning its decision to list the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. This is a big win for conservation.

As you may recall, the court struck down the listing because the federal government gave short shrift to state and private conservation efforts. Those efforts have led to a nearly 50% increase in the species’ population since 2013.

The historic state and private effort to recover the species should have been a cause for celebration within the Service. Instead, bureaucrats within the Service decided to inexplicably violate the agency’s own policy by assuming that these conservation efforts would never be implemented. The court rightly recognized that such arbitrary decision making is an affront to law.

Ultimately, this result is not only a win for industry and property owners. It’s also a win for the lesser prairie chicken. Listed species do not have a very good track record. In the 43 years since the Endangered Species Act was enacted, less than 2% of the species listed have recovered to the point that they could be delisted. This is likely due to the dismal incentives property owners face under the statute to maintain habitat or contribute to a species’ recovery. Private, voluntary efforts, on the other hand, get the incentives right and offer the prospect of a win-win.

How Sackett saved Andy Johnson

Pacific Legal Foundation has a long history in the U.S. Supreme Court.  It has won seven cases in a row, with two more pending.  Most of these cases relate to protecting private property rights from overreaching government.  Abuses under the Clean Water Act were the focus of our 2006 Rapanos case and our 2012 Sackett case.  In Sackett, the High Court unanimously held a landowner could go to court to challenge an EPA compliance order. Continue reading

Supreme Court: Plaintiffs in federal court must show a “concrete” injury

Thomas Robins, an unemployed man, sued Spokeo, a “people search engine” that collects and publishes information about individuals, for willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), because it published false information—specifically, that Robins was married, had a graduate degree, and was wealthy. The statute prohibits publication of false information, but the trial court held that publication of these particular “facts” did not cause Robins any real injury that gave him Article III standing. Article III of the Constitution allows federal courts to hear cases and controversies and is understood to require plaintiffs to show they suffered an actual injury; otherwise, the federal courts would be in the unconstitutional position of offering advisory opinions. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in this case held that any statutory violation sufficed to confer standing, and reversed the trial court. Continue reading

President’s weekly report — May 13, 2016

Victory in Wyoming!

Our client Andy Johnson entered in this consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency in Johnson v. EPA. This is the case where the EPA threatened Andy Johnson with millions of dollars in fines if he didn’t remove a stock pond — despite the fact that Johnson obtained all necessary state permits, was actually improving the local environment and, most significantly, wasn’t even required to get permission from EPA to build his pond. For more, see our blog post here and here.

Petition filed in Supreme Court to challenge an unlawful taking in Washington State

We filed this petition for writ of certiorari in Common Sense Alliance v. San Juan County. The petition asks the Supreme Court to decide whether Nollan and Dolan apply to generally applicable ordinances, and require more than a mere showing that a development exaction will benefit the public. See our blog post here, and press release here.

Injunction against government-sponsored segregation sought Continue reading

Preliminary injunction filed in St. Louis segregation case

This afternoon we filed a motion for preliminary injunction in White v. Voluntary Interdistrict White Family PicChoice Corporation. This is our challenge to a St. Louis-area policy that prevents black kids — and only black kids — from transferring from St. Louis County into public schools in the
City of St. Louis. This is a blatant, invidious, unjust, and racist policy that prevents black children from having the same opportunity as other kids simply because they are black.
Continue reading

Can a county turn your land into a water treatment facility without paying?

This week Pacific Legal Foundation filed this petition in the Supreme Court of the United States, asking it to decide whether the government can make shoreline property owners give up part of their land to serve as water quality buffers for the surrounding community. This case, Common Sense Alliance v. San Juan County, deals with a perennial problem that property owners face. Government jurisdictions require permits to develop property, and use that authority as leverage to take property which they would otherwise have to pay for. The Supreme Court has aptly described this as an “out-and-out plan of extortion.Continue reading