Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a significant property rights decision in Koontz v. St Johns River Water Management District.

Although the case arose in Florida, it has national implications for land use and environmental permitting.

In Koontz, the Supreme Court vindicated its earlier precedents forbidding regulatory agencies from extorting property from citizens in exchange for land use permits unless the agency requests were related and proportional to offsetting the actual impacts of a proposed land use.

Excessive permit “exactions” had been growing rampant around the country as many lower courts allowed agencies to get away with this extortive practice on mere legal technicalities.

Koontz put a resounding end to this erosion of property rights by confirming constitutional nonextortion rules apply with equal force, whether the property demanded is land, money or the obligation to construct infrastructure at private expense. The Supreme Court also made clear that the coercive tactic of denying a permit altogether when a citizen objects to an excessive exaction (instead of granting a permit with a questionable condition) does not allow agencies to evade the constitutional requirements of relationship and proportionality to impacts.

While on the national level Koontz closed troublesome loopholes for regulatory overreaching, its full implications for Floridians, particularly the long-suffering Koontz family, remain to be seen. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the state courts to decide whether to affirm the compensation awarded to the family by a trial judge years ago.

Stay tuned.

For more information about the Koontz case, visit the Pacific Legal Foundation website: There’s no ‘off-site’ exception to Fifth Amendment’s takings clause.


Want more expert analysis? Attend CLE telebriefing on July 11

Amy Brigham Boulris Join Gunster’s Amy Brigham Boulris for a one-hour Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District telebriefing sponsored by Law Seminars International on Thursday, July 11 at 3 p.m. ET.Audience questions will be taken after a brief discussion of the topic.Click here for more info & to register

The distinguished panel of experts at the telebriefing includes:

Michael Berger, one of the top land use and condemnation lawyers in the U.S., he has argued four regulatory taking cases before the Supreme Court and filed amicus curiae briefs in many others, including the Koontz case; and
John Echeverria, a lawyer and professor at Vermont Law School, previously served for 12 years as executive director of the Georgetown Environmental Law & Policy Institute at Georgetown University Law Center. Prior to that, he was general counsel of the National Audubon Society and general counsel and conservation director of American Rivers, Inc.
Amy Brigham Boulris focuses her practice on the defense of property rights in the context of eminent domain, inverse condemnation, property-related civil rights claims, and related land-use litigation. In addition to her property rights work, she is active at all levels of state and federal courts of appeal.


This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

Established in 1925, Gunster is one of Florida’s oldest and largest full-service law firms. The firm’s clients include international, national and local businesses, institutions, local governments and prominent individuals. Gunster maintains its presence in Florida with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. Gunster is home to more than 150 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, providing counsel to clients through 18 practice groups including banking & financial services; business litigation; construction; corporate; environmental & land use; government affairs; health care; immigration; international; labor & employment; leisure & resorts; private wealth services; probate, trust & guardianship litigation; professional malpractice; real estate; securities and corporate governance; tax; and technology & entrepreneurial companies. Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 350 largest law firms.


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