- When does a taking of land occur? The wrong answer would let the government push around owners in disputes over rails-to-trails projects [Trevor Burrus on Cato Institute amicus brief on Federal Circuit case of Caquelin v. U.S.]
- Though the federal government can’t successfully manage the Western lands it already has, it will soon extend its grip over more. This time Republicans are responsible [Chris Edwards, Cato]
- “Sydney’s rental prices are declining because it’s seeing a building boom. The size of Sydney’s apartment market has doubled in two years, and landlords have had to drop rents in order to get tenants.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]
- To make NYC’s public housing towers a better place to live, throw Le Corbusier off the balcony [Howard Husock, New York Post]
- Economist Robert H. Nelson, R.I.P. [Jane Shaw, Cato Regulation Magazine]
- Update: Baltimore eminent domain case against owner of Preakness Stakes race and Pimlico track dropped for now, but remains as bludgeon in closet [Ilya Somin, earlier here, etc.]
- “The Supreme Court Should End Pipeline Companies ‘Build First, Pay Later’ Use Of Eminent Domain” [Andrew Wimer, Institute for Justice/Forbes, Robert Thomas, Inverse Condemnation on cert petition in Like v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line] Plus: Federalist Society teleforum on pipeline eminent domain battles with Robert J. McNamara of IJ and Peter Tolsdorf of NAM;
- New nuclear format: “Enough communities in Utah and elsewhere have agreed to purchase nuclear power from a small modular reactor planned at the Idaho National Laboratory, triggering a next phase in its development.” [Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News, Idaho National Lab/Energy Department, Adrian Cho/Science Mag]
- “National manufacturers group warns Florida a ‘climate litigation’ target” [John Haughey, Center Square]
- “Transportation Department Proposes New Criminal Thresholds For Anti-Pipeline Protests” [Western Wire, earlier here, here, here, etc.]
- The better to pressure you, my dear: groups demand that California insurers disclose fossil fuel insureds [Insurance Journal]
- “New Orleans coastal lawsuit will kill jobs, critics say” [Bethany Blankley, Center Square Louisiana, earlier]
Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision along 5-4 ideological lines in Knick v. Township of Scott, on whether owners whose property is taken must first exhaust state remedies before seeking relief in federal court, is a big win for property owners. It overrules the unsound 1985 precedent to the contrary of a case called Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank. It also represents the second time this term the Court has overruled one of its precedents, following Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, in which it overturned an earlier precedent on the scope of state tax power. The Court this term has declined to overturn precedent in a third case (Gamble v. U.S., on double jeopardy) and has yet to decide whether to overturn two notable administrative-law precedents in the still-pending case of Kisor v. Wilkie.
In some legal contexts, it can make sense to condition court relief on exhaustion of administrative remedies. But as Chief Justice Roberts wrote for yesterday’s majority, claims under the Bill of Rights are in general allowed direct access to federal courts. In creating an exception, Williamson had “relegate[d] the Takings Clause ‘to the status of a poor relation’ among the provisions of the Bill of Rights.”
Cato actively urged the property owner’s case in Knick, a case arising from a Pennsylvania law that imposed various uncompensated mandates, barbed by fines and penalties, on the owners of land on which persons are buried. Pennsylvania is known for its rural practice of “backyard burials.” Ilya Shapiro has one quick reaction and Ilya Somin, who has written extensively on Knick and the constitutional issues it raises, has another.
- EPA confirms the view of its peer agencies around the world: glyphosate weed killer, found in Roundup, is not a carcinogen [Tom Polansek, Reuters, earlier, more]
- Mayor Bulldozer? Critical look at Pete Buttigieg’s push to tear down hundreds of vacant dilapidated South Bend homes and fine the owners [Henry Gomez, BuzzFeed; see also Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star]
- “Why Trump should call off the EPA’s latest assault on NYC” [Nicole Gelinas, New York Post; $3 billion to revamp and cover over a Yonkers reservoir]
- “‘High-yield’ farming costs the environment less than previously thought – and could help spare habitats” [Cambridge University]
- Is clarity finally coming on the scope of federal control of local surface waters? [Jonathan Adler on Trump administration “Waters of the United States” regulation; Tony Francois, Federalist Society on prospects for “navigable waters” at the Supreme Court]
- “New Jersey Court Strikes Down Use of Eminent Domain to Take Property to “Bank” it for Possible Future Use” [Ilya Somin] Pennsylvania law promoted as fixing blighted neighborhoods used to steal people’s homes [Eric Boehm]
- The high cost of feel-good laws: why bans on disposable plastic grocery bags are bad for the environment [Greg Rosalsky, NPR “Planet Money”] Not a good move for public health either [Hans Bader on New York’s second-in-the-nation statewide ban, following California] Enjoy your tepid pad thai: Maryland lawmakers move to ban polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups and containers for ready-to-go food [Michelle Santiago Cortés, Refinery 21]
- A future President who declared a national emergency over climate change might unlock some far-reaching powers [Jackie Flynn Mogenson, Mother Jones]
- “Waking the Litigation Monster: The Misuse of Public Nuisance,” 48-page report on attempts to legislate by means of novel public nuisance suits [Joshua Payne and Jess Nix, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
- Dim and dimmer: the Washington Post “argues that the policy of imposing energy efficiency standards on lightbulbs ‘has no downside.'” [Peter Van Doren, Cato; earlier] “Appliance Standards Are Expensive, And Regressive Too” [Susan Dudley, Forbes, earlier here, here, etc.]
- Supreme Court “should clarify that courts should consider a property’s prospective economic value when evaluating the just compensation due from regulatory takings” [Ilya Shapiro and Nathan Harvey on Cato amicus in Love Field terminal gate case]
- The “most expensive and least effective environmental law” of all: ideas for fixing NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, which mandates environmental impact statements [Mark Rutzick, Federalist Society]
A noteworthy victory for property owners in Brooklyn, following investigative journalism that had exposed a pattern of a seizures by New York City of homes and other properties after procedurally or substantively dubious findings of distressed condition or tax/water arrears. The city then sometimes handed the property over to politically connected developers. In the new decision, Kings County Supreme Court Judge Mark Partnow “ruled that the City of New York violated the U. S. Constitution in the seizure of six central Brooklyn properties, and ordered the city to give them back to their owners.” [Stephen Witt and Kelly J. Mena, Kings County Politics, earlier on the journalism]
Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh has filed suit seeking to seize the famed Preakness Stakes race — trademarks, business deals, and all — through eminent domain. I’ve got a few things to say about that in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy has an analysis that quotes my piece.
For those just catching up with the underlying story, Pamela Wood covers it at the Baltimore Sun/Capital Gazette as does Robert H. Thomas at Inverse Condemnation. See also my 2014 Cato take on an earlier episode in Maryland’s history of “smash and grab” eminent domain methods.
- “Everything would be all renewable all the time if we could just pass the right laws.” The wishful underpinnings of the Green New Deal [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Regulation Magazine editor Peter Van Doren]
- “The U.S. rail system is optimized for freight, vs. European and Japanese systems that are optimized for passengers (it is hard to do both well with the same network). The U.S. situation is actually better, much better, for energy conservation.” [Coyote]
- Federalist Society discussions of climate litigation based on public nuisance theories: National Lawyers Convention panel with David Bookbinder, Eric Grant, James Huffman, Mark W. Smith, moderated by Hon. John K. Bush; “Originally Speaking” written debate with John Baker, Richard Faulk, Dan Lungren, Donald Kochan, Pat Parenteau, David Bookbinder; Boston Lawyers Chapter panel on municipal litigation with Steven Ferrey, Phil Goldberg, Donald Kochan, James R. May, Kenneth Reich] Climate nuisance suits have met with an unfriendly reception in American courts and there is no good rationale for filing copycat claims in Canada [Stewart Muir, Resource Works]
- “Public Universities Exploit Eminent Domain Powers with Little Oversight” [Chris West, Martin Center]
- Many pro-market reforms would reduce the risks to life and property from natural disasters, climate-related and otherwise [Chris Edwards, Cato]
- “On patrol with the enforcer of DC’s plastic-straw ban” [Fenit Nirappil/AP via Peter Bonilla (“Welcome to the worst ride along ever”)]
The Eminent Domain Just Compensation Act, introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), would require the feds to pay at the time of taking, rather than long afterward, when taking land by eminent domain for the proposed border wall. “It is unjust for the government to seize someone’s property with a lowball offer and then put the burden on them to fight for what they’re still owed,” Rep. Amash said in a statement. “My bill will stop this practice by requiring that a property’s fair value be finalized before DHS takes ownership.” While the bill applies only to the Homeland Security Department, its principles could presumably be generalized through further legislation. [David Bier, Cato] Related: Ilya Somin, and earlier here and here.