Will Florida takings injustice tempt SCOTUS?

Simone and Lyder Johnson say they

were drawn to Ponce Inlet, Florida, where they bought land and made plans to construct their dream home. Sensing that the town may be able to benefit, Ponce Inlet persuaded the Johnsons to expand their plans into “a delightful mixed-use waterfront development.”

Over several years, the Johnsons bought additional parcels while working hand-in-hand with the town. They were amenable to providing everything the town asked for, like a nature preserve and boat slip. After millions of dollars were spent, the town changed its mind, halted all work, denied permits, and went so far as to pass legislation prohibiting all development on the Johnsons’ property.

Under current regulatory takings law, government is hardly ever required to pay compensation when it forbids the use of land. Is the injustice in this case extreme enough to tempt SCOTUS to revisit the issue? [Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Meggan DeWitt on Cato certiorari brief in Pacetta v. Ponce Inlet]

And a reminder to mark your calendar: Cato’s 17th annual Constitution Day is coming up Monday, September 17. Details and registration here.


  • When the town changed its mind, I wonder if the same officials still in office as before? Same Mayor and Council? Same head of planning and zoning? Same Town Attorney?

  • Sounds like the Johnsons were tripped up by a change in the town administration.

    The wise land developer always donates to both political parties, ensuring friends on both sides of the aisle.

  • It sounds like the Johnsons should get some compensation. Nevertheless, the reversal of town policy might be logical. Voters may have realized that development would shut them out of the most attractive part of the town’s waterfront, previously free to everyone.