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Going Rogue: Stop the Beach Renourishment as an Object of Morbid Fascination

58 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2012 Last revised: 4 Feb 2013

Mary Doyle

University of Miami - School of Law

Stephen J. Schnably

University of Miami School of Law

Date Written: March 16, 2012


Scholarly response to the Supreme Court's decision in Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection has focused on the plurality's strong advocacy of a judicial takings doctrine. We take a different tack. While the concept of judicial takings is worthy of serious attention, it is wrong to treat the plurality opinion as an ordinary object of analysis. It is, instead, the emanation of a Court going rogue.

Three basic symptoms of the pathology stand out. First, sleight of hand: The plurality opinion purports to be about an institutional issue -- can a state court commit a taking? -- while slipping in a major rewrite of takings law that would undermine the Court's recent, unanimous effort to clarify it.

Second, feigned obliviousness: The plurality opinion conveniently overlooks the Court's federalism jurisprudence even as it would expand the federal courts' power over state law.

Third, knowing artlessness: Despite being written as a virtuoso performance -- identifying a case the Florida Supreme Court "overlooked" -- the plurality's treatment of state law betrays surprising naivete‚ as to how state law is made, though, as it turns out, this seeming naivete‚ serves the purpose of shifting power within states from legislatures to courts.

While the history and tone of Justice Scalia's close attention to beach access issues makes pique a surprisingly strong candidate for why the plurality went rogue, the more worrying explanation is the willingness of the more conservative members of the Court to expand their own power into new areas of state law without the slightest sign of support from the political branches. There is a danger that conservative attacks on the courts over decisions on controversial social issues will distract from a more basic problem: If the Court's enforcement of federalism rests on what Justice O'Connor called Congress's "underdeveloped capacity for self-restraint," we suggest that commentary should focus on the Court's own similarly underdeveloped capacity.

Keywords: constitutional law, judicial takings, federalism, separation of powers, judicial role

Suggested Citation

Doyle, Mary and Schnably, Stephen J., Going Rogue: Stop the Beach Renourishment as an Object of Morbid Fascination (March 16, 2012). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 83-140 (December 2012); University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-07. Available at SSRN: or

Mary Doyle

University of Miami - School of Law ( email )

1311 Miller Drive, G468
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States

Stephen J. Schnably (Contact Author)

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
Coral Gables, FL 33146
United States


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