Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 2, 2009
Decided June 17, 2010
Full case name Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Docket nos. 08-1151
Citations 560 U.S. ___ (more)
130 S. Ct. 2592, 70 ERC 1505, 177 L. Ed. 2d 184, 78 USLW 4578, 10 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7553, 2010 Daily Journal D.A.R. 9081, 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 484
Prior history 27 So. 3d 48 (Fla. App. 2006), review granted, 937 So. 2d 1099 (Fla. 2006), and review granted, 937 So. 2d 1100 (Fla. 2006), quashed, 998 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. 2008), cert. granted, 129 S. Ct. 2792 (2009)
Holding
Florida Supreme Court did not effect an unconstitutional taking of littoral property owners' rights to future accretions and to contact the water by upholding Florida's beach renourishment program.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Scalia, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor (parts I, IV, V); Roberts, Thomas, Alito (parts II, III)
Concurrence Kennedy, joined by Sotomayor
Concurrence Breyer, joined by Ginsburg
Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Laws applied
Takings Clause

Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 560 U.S. ___ (2010), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the Florida Supreme Court did not effect an unconstitutional taking of littoral property owners' rights to future accretions and to contact the water by upholding Florida's beach renourishment program.

At issue was whether the Florida Supreme Court violated the United States Constitution's regulatory Takings Clause when it upheld a plan to create a state-owned public beach between private waterfront property and the Gulf of Mexico through its beach nourishment program.[1]

Background[edit]

In 2003, the city of Destin and Walton County applied to add about 75 feet of dry sand to 6.9 miles of local eroded beach.[2] Beachfront property owners objected to the project and incorporated plaintiff Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. to stop the beach nourishment. Plaintiff lost its administrative challenge to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.[3]

On appeal plaintiff won, with the Florida First District Court of Appeal finding ownership of beachfront property as including a right for the property to forever touch the water.[3] The District Court of Appeal also certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court asking if Florida’s beach restoration statute was even constitutional.[3]

The Florida Supreme Court answered the question, yes, the statute was constitutional and additionally quashed the District Court of Appeal’s order, finding that, no, there is no right for beachfront property to forever touch the water.[4] Plaintiff then petitioned the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the Florida Supreme Court’s rejection of its theorized property right was itself a taking without just compensation and so contrary to the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.[4]

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The eight member U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed, finding that the Florida Supreme Court had accurately interpreted Florida property law. In an intensive review of Florida case law, the Court found that the Florida doctrine of avulsion, which holds that land created by a sudden event belongs to the owner of the seabed, applies to beach restoration.[5] Because here the state owns the seabed, there could be no taking. Indeed, the Florida Supreme Court complained that the District Court of Appeal and the parties had never discussed the doctrine of avulsion in their briefings or rulings below.[6] According to the U.S. Supreme Court’s logic, the burden is on the property owner to show that a property right existed prior to a judicial decision abolishing that right.[7]

Out of the twenty-nine pages in Justice Scalia’s opinion, seventeen are joined by only three other justices. The plurality, through Scalia, clarify that they see the takings clause analysis as being identical for every branch of government.[8] Judicial takings are no different. The rest of the plurality is devoted to attacking the concurrences, with Scalia accusing Justice Breyer of a "Queen-of-Hearts approach"[9] and Justice Kennedy of being “Orwellian".[10] After questioning the logic and deprecation of modern views on the Lochner era,[11] the plurality concludes by observing that substantive due process “never means never – because it never means anything precise”.[12]

Concurrences[edit]

Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Sotomayor, cautions against finding a judicial takings, noting that it is a novel concept and that it is institutionally unwise to reach questions that have not been well discussed by lower courts or commentators. Regardless, Kennedy theorizes that procedural and substantive due process should protect from judicial elimination of property rights even without invoking the takings clause.

Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg, also take issue with the plurality’s judicial takings logic, noting the longstanding habit of the court to not decide a question of constitutional law prior to the necessity of deciding it. Breyer rejects Scalia’s criticism of his position, noting that he does not need to announce a standard to find the claim would fail under any standard.

Justice Stevens, who left the court twelve days after the case was decided, did not participate because he owns a beachfront property in Florida.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Koons, Jennifer (2009-12-02). "Supreme Court Justices Hear Arguments in High-Stakes Takings Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  2. ^ Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 130 S. Ct. 2592, Slip Op. 5 (2010).
  3. ^ a b c Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 6.
  4. ^ a b Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 7.
  5. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 26.
  6. ^ Walton County v. Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc., 998 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. 2008).[1]
  7. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 25.
  8. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 8.
  9. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 13.
  10. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 15.
  11. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 16.
  12. ^ Stop the Beach, Slip Op. 20.
  13. ^ http://www.scotusblog.com/?p=21890

External links[edit]