May 5th, 2014 — By — In News & Events

Koontz Wins Again – Unconstitutional Exactions Are Still Unconstitutional and Money Remains Private Property Deserving Constitutional Protection

Last week, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal once again ruled in favor of Coy Koontz, Jr. in the case concerning his late father’s regulatory takings claim against the St. Johns River Water Management District.

In St. Johns River Water Management District v. Koontz, No. 5D06-01116 (Apr. 30, 2014) the Fifth DCA held that the Koontz family is entitled to damages under Florida law for the temporary taking of the family’s property for the time that the Water Management District’s unconstitutional demands, which Koontz refused, denied use of the property.  Last June, the United States Supreme Court held that the Water Management District’s exaction was an unconstitutional permit condition that evaded the long standing land-use doctrines established in  Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U. S. 825 (1987), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U. S. 374 (1994).

The Fifth DCA’s opinion in short and can be summed up in this excerpt below:

Because our decision in Koontz IV is entirely consistent with the decision of the United States Supreme Court, we adopt and reaffirm Koontz IV in its entirety and affirm the judgment below. We deny Appellant’s request to reopen the briefing. The constitutional issues decided by the United States Supreme Court were fully briefed here, and that Court’s holding does not set forth a new legal construct with which we must re-analyze these issues. To the extent that Appellant seeks to brief the state law issues left open by the Supreme Court, we conclude that those issues were either disposed of in Koontz I or Koontz IV, or they were not preserved and presented in those proceedings.

Slip op. at 3 (footnote omitted).

Justice Griffin dissented arguing that nothing was really “taken” from Koontz that would require the payment of just compensation under the Fifth Amendment, coming to a similar conclusion as that handed down by the Florida Supreme Court in 2012 and subsequently overturned by SCOTUS.  However, as Paul Beard of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the attorney and firm that represented Koontz before the US Supreme Court and again in these remanded proceedings, points out here the dissent misunderstands the purpose of the Florida statute providing for damages in such cases:  “The family’s injury lies, not in the taking of its money, but in the years of lost use of its property.  It is that injury that the Florida statute redresses…”.

As our friends and fellow bloggers Gideon Kanner (here) and Robert Thomas (here) have noted, this decision marks the fifth Koontz opinion from the District Court of Appeal and the eighth appellate decision over a nearly 20-year legal battle between the St. Johns Water Management District and the Koontz family.

While we believe the legal issues posed by Koontz (all 8 of ’em) have been settled by SCOTUS and this most recent appellate decision, whether or not the litigation will end is unknown.

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