WASHINGTON, DC: For thirty years, Southeastern Legal Foundation and like-minded property rights advocates have urged the Supreme Court to overrule Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank – an unprecedented case which, when applied, requires property owners to first sue in state court to ripen a federal takings claim. In short, the only way to protect your rights is to sue - a state of affairs that can't possibly have been in the minds of the property rights-friendly Founders.
The issue once again comes to the Supreme Court in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania. In this case, the township passed a new ordinance requiring all “cemeteries” be open and accessible to the public during the day. Rose Mary Knick owns 90 acres, and is now being fined hundreds of dollars every day for not opening her property to the public – all because a few old stone markers were found by town officials who entered her property without permission. The state court threw out Ms. Knick’s challenge, saying she could not proactively challenge the town ordinance. Out of options, Ms. Knick sued in federal court, where her case was thrown out because she had not litigated the case in state court. The federal court cited Williamson County. Ms. Knick is now left with no judicial options and forced to pay steep fines and open her land to the public.
As SLF has argued before, no other constitutional right is systematically barred from federal court. Americans should be outraged. Here at SLF we are, and this week, SLF, along with Cato Institute, NFIB Small Business Legal Center, and the Beacon Center of Tennessee, filed its second amicus brief of this Term, urging the United States Supreme Court to reconsider and overrule Williamson County.
Click here for SLF SCOTUS amicus brief in Knick v. Township of Scott