PROTECTING PROPERTY RIGHTS AT THE BEACH:
GOVERNMENT LAND GRAB FOR PERCEIVED “PUBLIC GOOD”
On behalf of Save Our Beaches, a non-profit Florida organization founded in 2004 to protect private property rights for beach front owners and itself, Southeastern Legal Foundation has filed a friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court of the United States urging the high court to overturn a Florida Supreme Court decision which approved so-called “beach renourishment” as constitutional, despite well-founded case law supporting the right of full use and enjoyment of private property. Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, et al.
The nationally profiled case brings to light key Fifth Amendment property rights concerns, including the alleged power of local governments to not enforce trespass laws and to acquire actual “public rights” to private property without just compensation. The case, which is likely to be heard in October 2009, will be one of the first major cases heard by new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The brief raises important legal questions regarding the actions of Walton County, Florida and the City of Destin, Florida in developing multiple attempts since the late 1990s to achieve unrestricted public use of private beach property – without required constitutional due process and equal protection.
In its opening salvo in the brief, SLF attorneys make the following statement:
”How many ways are there to skin a cat? In the instant case, local governments have tried any number of ways to achieve by fiat what cannot be achieved except by well-established constitutional process – the taking of private property with unique characteristics for perceived “public good.”
SLF has represented private beach front owners and members of Save Our Beaches in litigation and advocacy since the late 1990s. SLF has successfully litigated landmark property rights cases before the Supreme Court of the United States as one of the Foundation’s primary constitutional issues since its inception in 1976. SLF currently represents Save Our Beaches in a lawsuit charging that the City of Destin has violated owners’ rights to equal protection under the law.
The outcome of the Supreme Court appeal is likely to have widespread impact on Fifth Amendment private property litigation across the nation.