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Amicus Briefs

Nature of Cases

OCA lawyers have been and continue to be involved in significant property rights and takings cases in nearly every state and jurisdiction across the country. OCA attorneys have represented property owners in major cases nationwide and OCA has appeared as amici (“friends of the court”) in many others. Below are some examples of U.S. Supreme Court cases where OCA member attorneys were directly involved in litigating the case or where OCA filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the property owner:

  • Kaiser Aetna v. United States, 444 U.S. 164 (1979)
  • Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255 (1980)
  • Preseault v. ICC, 494 U.S. 1 (1986)
  • First English Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Los Angeles County, 482 U.S. 304 (1987)
  • Nollan v. Cal. Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987)
  • Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992)
  • Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994)
  • City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687 (1999)
  • Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606 (2001)
  • Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg’l Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302 (2002)
  • San Remo Hotel, L.P. v. City and County of San Francisco, 545 U.S. 323 (2005)
  • Lingle v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 544 U.S. 528 (2005)
  • Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)
  • Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. vs. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, 560 U.S. 702 (2010)
  • Knick vs. Township of Scott, 588 U.S. (2019)

Process For Requesting an Amicus Brief

OCA’s primary focus is on eminent domain, inverse condemnation and regulatory taking matters, with a particular focus on “right to take” and “just compensation” claims. If you believe that OCA’s voice can aid in the resolution of your case, contact our office at (877) 367-6963 to speak with OCA’s Executive Director.

Featured Amicus Brief Cases

Johnson v. City of Suffolk, Record No. 191563 (June 29, 2020)

In this case currently before the Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia oystermen claim that a Sanitation District and the City knowingly operated a sewage and stormwater system in such a way as to discharge wastewater into the Nansemond River, invading oyster beds being leased by the oystermen from the state for the express purpose of oyster cultivation, thereby damaging and taking the oysters—their private property—without compensation.  From a lower court decision finding the oystermen’s claims were superseded by the right of localities to pollute freely pursuant to Darling v. City of Newport News, 249 U.S. 540, 543 (1919), the case is now before the Virginia Supreme Court. The issue to be decided is: Can a municipal entity evade liability under Article I, Section 11 of the Virginia Constitution after discharging wastewater from its public sanitation system into the Nansemond River, destroying privately owned oysters on sections of riverbeds leased from the Commonwealth for the express purpose of oyster cultivation? A copy of OCA’s Amicus Brief can be viewed here.

Lech v. City of Greenwood Village, No. 19-1123 (April 15, 2020)

After being chased by police for stealing clothing from a Walmart, a man barricaded himself in a house in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Over a 19 hour period, using explosives and a battering ram attached to an armored personnel carrier, the local police department’s SWAT team intentionally destroyed the landowner’s house to force the fugitive to surrender. Afterwards, they offered the family $5,000 “to help with temporary living expenses.” The family sued, arguing that they were entitled to just compensation under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution for the intentional destruction of their house. The Tenth Circuit, however, held that no compensation was due because the home was destroyed pursuant to the police power rather than the power of eminent domain. To review OCA’s Amicus Brief on a cert petition to the United States Supreme Court click here. You can also read more about the case under OCA’s News and Events.

Knick v. Township of Scott, 588 U.S. ___ (2019).

In Knick, the U. S. Supreme Court agreed that property owners are entitled to enforce their right to just compensation in federal court in situations where governmental entities take their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In overruling Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank (1985), a case that for the last 30 years barred takings plaintiffs from federal court until they had exhausted certain state remedies, the Court placed property rights on the same constitutional footing as other federal constitutional rights. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts stated that property rights shall now have “the full fledged constitutional status they should enjoy,” meaning that they are recognized as equal to other civil and constitutional rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

In Knick the Township of Scott, Pennsylvania adopted an ordinance requiring owners of both public and private cemeteries to not only maintain them, but keep them open to members of the public during daylight hours. Thereafter, a Town code inspector visited Rose Mary Knick, and, after inspecting her private property without a warrant, informed her that the stones on her property were actually grave markers, subjecting her to the scope of the ordinance and opening her up to a citation for non-compliance with its requirements.

When Ms. Knick ultimately sued the Town in federal court on a property rights taking claim for enforcing the ordinance against her, her case was thrown out under the Williamson County Doctrine. The court held that her claims could only be litigated in state court. As a result of the Knick decision overturning the Williamson County Doctrine, property owners nationwide now have more options and judical platforms within which to fight the over-regulation of their property by zealous governmental entities and other abusive practices that often result in the denial of all economically viable uses.

Rosemary Knick was represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation. To view the Amicus Brief which Owners’ Counsel of America wrote in the Knick case, click here.

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