Federal Government Eminent Domain - No 'Trial by Jury' - SLF, NFIB, Cato Institute file brie
ATLANTA, GA/CINCINATTI, OH, July 15, 2016: Southeastern Legal Foundation joined the National Federal of Independent Business and the Cato Institute on an amicus brief supporting property owners’ right to a trial by jury when the government tries to take their property through the power of eminent domain.
In Michigan, the federal government used eminent domain to take property from a group of landowners. Recognizing that property is the foundation for the other civil rights that we enjoy and that the federal government’s actions likely resulted in an unconstitutional takings, the landowners filed suit in a federal court and asked the court to, at a minimum, find they are due just compensation.
The suit also challenged a provision of the Tucker Act that directs suits against the federal government over $10,000 to be brought in the Court of Federal Claims (a legislative tribunal rather than an Article III court) as violating the Seventh Amendment. Thus, the landowners were challenging the denial of their constitutional right to a trial by jury.
The district court sided with the government, shielding the government from constitutional checks and balances that protect individual property rights. Under the district court decision, the federal government can take your property and will never have to answer to a jury.
As argued in the amicus brief, the district court’s opinion conflicts not only with the Constitution, but also with Supreme Court precedent. Less than 20 years ago, the Supreme Court held that because parties asserting takings claims seek compensation, those claims would have been heard by a court of laws (Article III court) at the time the Seventh Amendment was ratified. The Supreme Court has never barred a party from a trial by jury simply because the federal government seeks to exempt itself from such scrutiny, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has no reason to do so here.