Bill Would Give Property Owners Their Day in Court
Answering an ongoing concern of the nation’s home builders, bipartisan legislation introduced on Feb. 16 by Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) would restore the protections offered under the Fifth Amendment to property owners.
“H.R. 4772, the ‘Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 2006,’ is designed to ensure that property owners get their day in federal court to defend their Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, which provides that no person shall ‘be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation,’” said NAHB President David Pressly.
Property owners with a takings claim now face a Catch 22. Under the current legal system, before a federal court will rule on a Fifth Amendment takings claim, property owners must first litigate their case in state court. However, bringing the case to state court and having a takings claim heard (even under state law) often precludes the property owner from review by the federal courts.
“A property owner is, in effect, blocked from using the federal courts to enforce the Fifth Amendment’s just compensation guarantee,” said Pressly. “As a result, property owners throw up their hands and give up without ever getting a fair hearing in federal court.”
By contrast, all other civil rights cases can be brought directly to federal court. To illustrate the disparity now facing property owners, an adult book store owner who challenges a municipal land-use regulation based on the First Amendment’s free speech protection has direct access to federal court, while a property owner challenging the same regulation but raising a Fifth Amendment takings claim does not.
“This bill would finally put the Fifth Amendment back on par with the rest of the Bill of Rights,” said Pressly. “Congress has passed laws to ensure that citizens alleging a violation of their constitutionally protected rights have access to federal courts. Fifth Amendment takings cases should be treated no differently.
“The nation’s home builders commend Reps. Chabot and Gordon for introducing this much-needed bill to ensure that property owners have the same access to federal courts as other plaintiffs claiming a violation of their constitutional rights,” he added.
Joining as original cosponsors are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).
To read the legislation, click here and enter H.R. 4772 in the box at the center of the page.
For more information, e-mail Michael Strauss at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8252.