PLF seeks Supreme Court review of federal eminent domain abuse in the Everglades
The Supreme Court is asked to review a challenge to the feds' abuse of eminent domain, and property rights, when they expanded Everglades National Park.
(I-Newswire) October 29, 2009 - STUART, Florida; October 29, 2009: The U.S. Supreme Court should hear the case of Florida resident Gilbert Fornatora, who was victimized by abusive government tactics when federal officials condemned his property as part of the expansion of Everglades National Park.
So argue Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys, in a newly filed petition to the High Court on behalf of Mr. Fornatora. Headquartered in Sacramento, with its Atlantic Center office in Stuart, Florida, PLF is the nation’s leading legal watchdog for property rights. PLF’s petition to the Supreme Court is available at PLF’s Web site: www.pacificlegal.org.
"When government takes property, the Constitution requires compensation that is just, not merely what the government thinks it wants to pay," said Steven Geoffrey Gieseler, managing attorney of PLF’s Atlantic Center office. "Federal manipulation of the eminent domain process prevented Gilbert Fornatora from being justly compensated. We’re asking the Supreme Court to review this case in order to halt eminent domain abuse by federal officials, and to uphold the just compensation principle for property owners all across the country."
In their petition to the High Court, PLF attorneys note that there are competing rules among the lower courts about standards for assessing federal conduct in the eminent domain process. The Supreme Court should take the case to clarify a single, constitutionally rigorous standard, the petition urges. The Court should also take the case, PLF argues, to impose a consistent judicial standard for determining when manipulative abuses of eminent domain violate the Constitution’s guarantee of Due Process of Law.
Federal "gaming" of the eminent domain process
Gilbert Fornatora acquired the property at issue – 480 acres in Dade County, Florida, adjacent to Everglades National Park – in the 1950s and 1960s.
"The first example of federal abuse of the eminent domain process began in the late 1970s, when the federal government began laying the groundwork to later condemn Mr. Fornatora’s property for expansion of Everglades National Park," said Gieseler. "Federal officials leaned on local authorities to tighten zoning, in order to lower the land’s market value and the compensation that the government would have to pay."
Expansion of the park was formally authorized by Congress in 1989. "When it came time for the eminent domain process to begin, federal officials embarked on more manipulation," Gieseler continued. "They delayed all proceedings against those landowners, including Mr. Fornatora, who were represented by private attorneys. Instead, the feds moved first against landowners who didn’t have legal counsel and weren’t able to present testimony and evidence for higher payments. Once their land had been condemned, the government then used these low-ball prices as precedent to pay owners like Mr. Fornatora less than what they were truly owed."
"Eminent domain is a process to be undertaken honorably and honestly, not a system to be gamed by government in order to shortchange property owners of their just compensation and their rights under the Constitution," said Gieseler.
The case is 480.00 Acres of Land and Gilbert A. Fornatora v. United States. PLF’s petition to the Supreme Court is available at PLF’s Web site: www.pacificlegal.org.
About Pacific Legal Foundation and its Atlantic Center
Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the nation’s oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts nationwide. PLF’s Atlantic Center is located in Stuart, Florida. A brief video about PLF’s history and mission, including comments by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin J. Meese III, can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnBSlRQwxKU.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation
3900 Lennane Drive, Suite 200
Phone : (916) 419-7111
Published On:October 29, 2009
Print Release:Print Release
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