Unanimous Victory for Property Owner
Mike and Chantal Sackett purchased a small residential lot in Priest Lake, Idaho for 23,000 in hopes of building their dream home. The parcel was .63 acres and in a residential subdivision, with other houses established in the neighborhood, including water and sewer hookups. After obtaining all the necessary building permits, the Sackett’s were sent a compliance order by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that their property had been deemed “wetlands”. The order stated that they must remove all the gravel from their property and plant numerous plants, which have never been on the property, or pay fines of over $27,000 per day.
The Sackett’s contended that their property was not “wetlands” and requested a hearing by the EPA; of which was denied. The Sackett’s turned to the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), the leading legal watchdog for limited government and property rights, to represent them. Their question for the court was this: When property owners are hit with a land grab by the EPA, do they have a right to a meaningful judicial review? It seems simple enough that there should be a way for anyone to appeal a decision by a government agency that they think is incorrect. The Sackett’s case was heard by the Ninth Circuit Court, but the Court sided with the government. PLF appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. On March 21, with a 9-0 vote, the United State Supreme Court ruled that landowners have a right to direct, meaningful judicial review if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency effectively seizes control of their property by declaring it to be “wetlands.”
This is a victory for all property owners. The heavy hand of government should not burden property owners with costly regulations that they have no way to appeal. The Sackett’s are not large developers with deep pockets. They are small business owners trying to build a modest home for their family. Justice Alito even called the EPA’s conduct “outrageous”. The Sackett’s case is a perfect example of how over burdensome our regulatory process can be.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to take a stand for constitutional rights, for all Americans”, said Mike Sackett. “We’re standing up for everyone’s right to go to court when the government hands you a raw deal - or takes over your hard earned property.”
While the Sackett’s case is an extreme example, farmers, ranchers and rural property owners know firsthand how government regulation can be an arduous burden. It is paramount that we stand up for private property rights. They are fundamental to our constitution and way of life. ■
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