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Brott v. United States of America

Why We Fight:

A landowner’s whose property is seized by the federal government has the right to seek “just compensation” for the “unconstitutional taking” of his property in a nearby federal district court by a jury of his peers.

Summary:

Federal law requires landowners whose property is “taken” by the federal government without “just compensation” to file their lawsuits, not in a federal district court to be heard by a jury of their peers, but in an administrative court by a judge alone, all notwithstanding the protection afforded by the Constitution’s Fifth and Seventh Amendments.

Legal Question:

Whether Congress may statutorily deny landowners the right to have their Fifth Amendment takings claims heard by an Article III court and tried by a jury under the Seventh Amendment?

Plaintiffs:

Kevin Brott; Kathleen Bondon; Louis and Pharquiette Churchwell; Fredricks Construction Co.; Karen Frisco; Patricia Green; Veronica Harwell-Smith; Rickey and Carolyn Holden; Robert Jones; Jeremy Keith; Joel F. and Sharon Kowalski; Theresa Lopez; Ileine Maxin; Thomasine Meshawboose; Thomas Navarini; Luis and Yolanda Santillanes; Westshore Engineering & Surveying, Inc.; 2017 8th, LLC; and 2170 Sherman, LLC.

Defendant:

United States of America

Amicus Curiae:

Mountain States Legal Foundation

Court:

Supreme Court of the United States
A decision by the Supreme Court of the United States on whether to grant to petition.
A 3.35-mile right-of-way in Muskegon County, Michigan acquired by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad in 1886, which was limited in scope to the operation of a railway, has not been used for railroad operations since September of 2005.  Thus, in November of 2007, Mid-Michigan Railroad, which is the predecessor in interest to Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, petitioned the federal Surface Transportation Board for authority to abandon the 3.35-mile right-of-way.  Although abandonment has not been authorized due to ongoing negotiations between Mid-Michigan Railroad and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, on January 14, 2015, twenty (20) landowners across whose property the right-of-way passes sued the United States claiming the federal government took their private property without paying just compensation.

On June 3, 2015, the United States moved to dismiss the landowners’ lawsuit for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction arguing that their complaint violates three federal statutes:  (1) the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346, which places a $10,000 monetary limitation on the jurisdiction of all Article III courts to hear Fifth Amendment claims; (2) the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, which grants exclusive jurisdiction over Fifth Amendment claims exceeding $10,000 to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a non-Article III court; and (3) 28 U.S.C. § 2402, which bars any right to a trial by jury for Fifth Amendment claims.

On July 13, 2015, the landowners filed their response to the motion to dismiss.  Also on July 13, 2015, MSLF moved for leave to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of MSLF and in support of landowners.  On July 14, 2015, the district court granted the motion, and MSLF’s amicus curiae brief was filed by the clerk that same day.  On August 6, 2015, the United States filed its reply brief in support of the motion to dismiss.

On March 28, 2016, the district court granted the United States’ motion to dismiss.  On April 8, 2016, the landowners filed a notice of appeal with both the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  The Federal Circuit directed the parties to show cause, by May 23, 2016, as to why the appeal should not be dismissed or transferred to the Sixth Circuit.  The briefing schedule in the Federal Circuit was stayed pending the outcome of the show cause order.

On June 27, 2016, the landowners filed their opening brief at the Sixth Circuit.  On July 5, 2016, MSLF filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of Professor James Ely, Jr. and MSLF in support of the landowners.  Also, on July 5, 2016, the Federal Circuit issued an order denying the requests to dismiss and transfer the landowners’ appeal.  In addition, the Federal Circuit stayed briefing and ordered the parties to notify it within 14 days of the issuance of a mandate in the appeal before the Sixth Circuit.  On August 31, 2016, the United States filed its response brief.  On October 3, 2016, the landowners filed their reply brief.  On February 2, 2017, the matter was argued before a three-judge panel.

On May 31, 2017, a panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling.  On July 14, 2017, the landowners filed a motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc.  On July 21, 2017, MSLF moved for leave to file an amicus brief on behalf of Professor James W. Ely, Jr. and MSLF in support of the landowners’ petition for rehearing en banc.  The motion was granted; MSLF filed its amicus brief on July 24, 2017.  On August 8, 2017, the Sixth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc

On November 6, 2017, the landowners filed a petition for a writ of certiorari.  On December 14, 2017, MSLF filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of Professor James W. Ely, Jr. and MSLF in support of the landowners’ petition.  The United States waived its right to respond to the petition, but on December 22, 2017 the Supreme Court requested a response, which is due January 22, 2018. 

  • Western Legal Group and Property Rights Expert Disappointed with Supreme Court

    Mar 26, 2018
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking just compensation for the taking of private property for public use, and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today expressed their disappointment that the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review a Michigan case involving the constitutional right to trial by jury.
  • Western Group and Property Rights Expert Urge Review of Fifth Amendment Case

    Dec 14, 2017
    The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the government may not take private property for public use without just compensation. When a group of Muskegon County, Michigan landowners sought just compensation in federal court for the use of their private property as a public trail, however, they found that a federal statute requires that any lawsuit claiming just compensation damages over $10,000 must be brought in a special tribunal under the control of Congress with no right to a jury trial.
  • Western Group and Property Rights Expert Disappointed with En Banc Denial

    Aug 8, 2017
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking “just compensation” for the taking of “private property” for “public use” and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today expressed their disappointment that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected their plea to rehear en banc the appeal brought by Muskegon County, Michigan landowners seeking constitutional relief for use of their private property as a public trail.
  • Western Group and Legal Expert Urge Rehearing En Banc for Michigan Landowners

    Jul 24, 2017
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking “just compensation” for the taking of “private property” for “public use” and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to rehear en banc the appeal brought by Muskegon County, Michigan landowners who sought constitutional relief for use of their private property for a public trail.
  • Western Group and Legal Expert Lament Michigan Landowners’ Loss

    May 31, 2017
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking “just compensation” for the taking of “private property” for “public use” and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today expressed dismay with the ruling against Muskegon County, Michigan landowners who sought constitutional relief for use of their private property for a public trail before a three-judge appellate panel.
  • Western Group and Legal Expert Aid Michigan Landowners

    Feb 2, 2017
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking “just compensation” for the taking of “private property” for “public use” and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today acknowledged that their friend of the court brief filed in support of Muskegon County, Michigan landowners who seek constitutional relief for use of their private property for a public trail was before the three-judge panel during oral argument.
  • Western Group and Legal Expert Aid Michigan Landowners

    Jul 5, 2016
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking “just compensation” for the taking of “private property” for “public use” and a renowned legal historian and property rights expert today filed a friend of the court brief in support of Muskegon County, Michigan landowners seeking constitutional relief for use of their private property for a public trail.
  • Western Legal Group Aids Michigan Landowners

    Jul 14, 2015
    A western nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation with decades of experience seeking “just compensation” for the “unconstitutional taking” of private property for “public purpose” today filed a friend of the court brief in support of Muskegon County, Michigan landowners seeking constitutional relief for use of their private property for a public trail.


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