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Supreme Court Hands Landowners a Victory

By a 5-4 vote the United States Supreme Court ruled on May 24 that landowners who sue local governments over land-use regulations are entitled to a trial by jury. The case, City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, centered around plans for a 37 acre residential complex.

The city of Monterey had disallowed development on the beachfront saying the area was the native habitat for various plants, animals and the "endangered" Smith Blue Butterfly.

A jury found that the city´s action amounted to a regulatory taking and awarded $1.45 million in damages. The city appealed claiming that allowing a jury trial "violated historical practice." The Court thought differently.

This decision may well be the most important one to be issued to date. Property rights advocates have long believed that if regular citizens had to sit in judgment of these draconian laws, common sense would prevail.