The New Judicial Takings Construct
Yale Law Journal Online, Forthcoming
22 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2011 Last revised: 8 Feb 2011
Date Written: January 4, 2011
In Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a four-Justice plurality endorsed a novel theory that would make the Takings Clause applicable to a wide collection of state court interpretations of state property law. Writing for the plurality, Justice Scalia declared that a state court’s opinion finding that an "established" property right "no longer exists" may amount to an unconstitutional taking. The opinion draws on two fundamental threads of Justice Scalia’s property jurisprudence: the first is the notion of property as a pre-political, immutable partition between individual interests and permissible government action; the second is a general distrust for the state courts that are tasked with declaring these individual property rights.
This Article has two primary purposes. First, it compares the judicial takings standard established by the plurality to previous discussions of federal constitutional review of state court property declarations, both in prior judicial decisions and in the academic literature. Second, it considers whether the plurality’s standard could be interpreted as applicable not only to state court decisions that allegedly result in a private-to-public reassignment of property, as the petitioners in Stop the Beach Renourishment claimed, but also to two additional instances: (i) adjudications of property disputes between two private parties or (ii) any allegedly improper judicial change in non-property areas of law where damages would serve as the remedy. The Article concludes that the plurality’s judicial takings standard arguably is inclusive of more state court rulings than any standard presented by earlier courts and commentators. Depending upon the breadth of its reach, this standard could serve to chill the ordinary operation of the common law system as responsive to changing conditions.
Keywords: Stop the Beach Renourishment, judicial takings, takings, property, land use
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