Lummis Helps Restore Right to Property Owners

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Today, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced H.R. 5624, the Property Owners Access to Court Act. The Lummis bill would allow citizens to defend their Fifth Amendment private property rights in federal court. 

“Whether it be free speech, free assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, or the right to just compensation, citizens must have access to federal courts to defend their constitutional rights. The guarantee of just compensation is as important to our liberty as the rest of the Bill of Rights. Yet Fifth Amendment property rights cases are the only civil rights cases unable to be heard by federal courts.”

H.R. 5624 seeks to correct recent court rulings that have eroded private property rights.  The Lummis bill clarifies that once property owners have exhausted state administrative remedies for just compensation, they can then choose whether to take their claim to state or federal court.

“The State of Wyoming, when it must exercise eminent domain, has taken significant steps on its own to protect landowners. It’s time for the federal government to follow suit.”

H.R. 5624 ensures federal court review of constitutional claims while protecting state court jurisdiction over matters of state law.

“Giving property owners access to the federal courts will help keep all levels of government accountable to the individual rights given to us by our Founding Fathers.  H.R. 5624 is a common-sense step toward bolstering a part of our Constitution that has been weakened by court decisions.”

 

Background:

The Supreme Court is the only federal court that can currently hear takings cases. The Supreme Court takes up less than one percent of cases it is presented with every year.


The Supreme Court’s 1885 decision, Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, requires property owners to exhaust all state court remedies for just compensation before a property rights claim may be filed in federal court. 

In the court’s 2005 ruling, San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, the Supreme Court upheld this “state litigation” requirement and further clarified that lower federal courts are to dismiss property rights claims that have already been settled by state courts. 

The combination of these two rulings denies federal court access for Fifth Amendment property rights claims.

In his concurrence in San Remo, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist stated: “Williamson County all but guarantees that claimants will be unable to utilize the federal courts to enforce the Fifth Amendment’s just compensation guarantee.”  He furthermore observed: “It is not clear to me that Williamson County was correct in demanding that, once a government entity has reached a final decision with respect to a claimant’s property, the claimant must seek compensation in state court before bringing a federal takings claim in federal court.”

To see the bill, click here!

Source: Office of Cynthia Lummis

Posted by Kaci Switzer

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