It began with a cemetery. A local government told the owner of a 90-acre parcel of land that included a small cemetery that regulations required she open the cemetery to the public during daytime hours. The woman fought back. She argued against having her private property opened up for the general public to view the remains of her neighbor’s ancestors.
She took the matter to court. The state court claimed the regulation did not cause the property owner harm. She appealed her argument to the federal courts. The federal courts stated, based on very old precedent, that she needed to continue her claim up through the state system — that it was too soon to take the matter to federal courts.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) agreed to hear her case.
What did the highest court in the country decide?
SCOTUS ruled in favor of the property owner. The court stated the “state litigation requirement imposes an unjustifiable burden on a property owner’s claim that his or her land has been effectively taken for public benefit without the government paying just compensation.”
As a result, in some cases property owners can potentially bypass the state court system and go directly to federal court.
Why is this a win for property owners?
Federal courts are generally viewed as looking more favorably upon property owners compared to state courts. The ability to circumvent state courts and take the claim directly to federal courts could increase the property owner’s chances of a ruling in their favor.
Why is this particularly important for Florida?
Cities and coastal areas are often known for having strict development regulations. This ruling could allow property owners that disagree with their local regulations to take the dispute to federal court — which, as noted above, often provides a property owner favorable venue.