PioneerLegal Joins Amicus Brief In Takings Case Before Sixth Circuit

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Pioneer Institute (Pioneer) has joined in an amicus brief in Brott vs. U.S., a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit involving a claim that the federal government took plaintiffs’ land through eminent domain without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of just compensation.

Pioneer identified this case through PioneerLegal, its new public-interest law initiative.

The plaintiffs in Brott are twenty-two families and small-business owners in Michigan who claim that the federal government took their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment by refusing to compensate – or offer to compensate – them for their land.  The federal Tucker Act provides that Fifth Amendment claims of this type can be brought only in the Court of Federal Claims, which is a legislative tribunal and not an Article III court.  The Tucker Act also denies the right to trial by jury in these matters.

On appeal, plaintiffs are challenging the statute, arguing that it unconstitutionally denies them access to an Article III court and tramples their Seventh Amendment guarantee to the right to trial by jury.  On a broader level, the plaintiffs argue that Congress does not have the power to limit by statute a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

PioneerLegal joined the National Association of Reversionary Property Owners, the Property Rights Foundation of America and Pepperdine University School of Law Vice Dean and Endowed Professor Shelley Ross Saxer in supporting the amicus brief.

The brief argues that Congress does not have to waive sovereign immunity and consent to be sued before a property owner can recover just compensation in a takings case before an Article III court.  It explains that the Supreme Court’s takings doctrine has held for well over a century that the Fifth Amendment has a self-executing element with respect to just compensation for takings of private land by the federal government.

The also brief references the Supreme Court’s ruling that the United States had wrongly taken what is now Arlington National Cemetery from General Robert E. and Mary Lee.

“In the Lee case, the Court starkly contrasted the U.S. and British systems,” said John Sivolella, Senior Fellow in Law and Policy at Pioneer.  “The Court concluded that a hallmark of our system is that we don’t have kings who must first consent to be sued in their own courts.  Any person has recourse to Article III courts to protect their constitutional rights.  In this case, we are happy to be part of a larger effort to help these individuals – who weren’t in a position to stand up for their constitutional rights without some assistance – to have their day in court.

Other organizations that signed onto amicus briefs supporting plaintiffs included Cato Institute, Reason Foundation and Pacific Legal Foundation.

PioneerLegal works for changes to policies, statutes and regulations that adversely affect the public interest in policy areas that include economic freedom, government accountability and school choice.