US Supreme Court reviews Texas case that may impact how states reimburse landowners for property

TexasThe land east of Houston has been in the DeVillier family for many generations, and it has never flooded. But when the state decided to redesign Interstate 10, everything was different.

Two times, during Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda, his rice plantation was inundated.

The crops and animals on the ranch near the coast of East Texas sustain significant damage every time there is a significant weather event. Apart from that, it becomes a lake every year.

DeVillier sued Texas in 2020, and the case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court on Tuesday. The justices heard arguments regarding his eligibility to seek federal relief during the proceedings.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution grants governments the right to take private property as long as they give just compensation. DeVillier and other Chambers County property owners have launched a lawsuit, arguing that their property rights have been violated by the flooding brought on by the state’s activities. However, the state contends that it should not have to pay them back since, in the words of Dan Charest, the first lawyer to defend the property owners in state court, it never intended to take their property.

According to the U.S. Fifth Amendment, governments have the authority to seize private property, as long as they provide fair compensation for it.

Determining whether the matter should be heard in federal or state courts was the main topic of discussion during Tuesday’s arguments. Charest, however, thinks that the Supreme Court’s decision will have a significant effect that might affect the entire country and broaden the interpretation of the Fifth Amendment.

In the event that the landowners win their case, the Supreme Court may reinterpret what constitutes a state seizure of property and create new guidelines for compensating landowners. However, if the state wins, the court’s decision may give the state more power to restrict or eliminate landowners’ rights to appeal the seizure of their property.

After the hearing, Robert McNamara, lead counsel for DeVillier and an attorney with the nonprofit Institute of Justice, expressed hope that Texas landowners will prevail in the end, no matter what happened.

He contends that the plaintiffs’ case in the lower federal courts will be strengthened if the Supreme Court rules in their favor. However, the matter will return to state court if the judges rule in favor of the state. If an updated case answers some of the state lawyers’ concerns, they have stated that they would be open to accepting it without any resistance.

McNamara stated his opinion that the case is already won, regardless of the court’s decision.

The question of whether Texas should compensate the landowners was not at the center of Tuesday’s hearings. Lower courts are where this topic is now being debated. The state had requested that the matter be heard in federal court rather than state court, and the Supreme Court held a hearing to discuss this motion.

Landowners whose property is taken by the government are required by the U.S. Constitution to be compensated, according to Aaron Lloyd Nielson of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Nielson, however, notes that the state has the ability to decide how these claims are handled because the Constitution does not specify how governments should carry out this compensation. Nielson further contends that the petitioners did not submit their claim through the appropriate methods specified in the Texas Constitution.

Charest claims that the petitioners followed all state regulations in filing the action.

Nielson claims that Texas asked for the issue to be heard at the federal level since the US Supreme Court has expertise in handling cases of this nature.

However, a few justices considered the state’s position, which maintained that federal courts weren’t the right place for the issue, to be confusing. The explanation given was that landowners in Texas can pursue restitution for government-seized property through a different procedure.

Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court offered his opinion on the subject, asking, “Well, isn’t that a Catch-22?”

The argument was attacked by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who labeled it a bait-and-switch strategy. She drew attention to the fact that the plaintiffs had first insisted that they seek remedies in the state, but that the state had since remanded the case to federal court.

One legal expert believes that the plaintiffs satisfied all the requirements set forth by Texas law, making the case seem entirely made up.

McNamara said that the landowners had filed in accordance with Texas law and had no other choice. The arena was ultimately chosen by the state.

The person who was interviewed claimed that Texas decided to move the issue to federal court with the goal of restricting these people’s federal constitutional rights.

Nielson says that if the plaintiffs modify their first complaint to take care of the issues brought up by the state, the state may decide not to oppose them.

Sotomayor questioned whether the party would be open to returning to the district court and without any opposition, merely requesting just compensation under the Texas Constitution and the Fifth Amendment.

Nielson answered, “We won’t oppose that, your honor.”

The Supreme Court of the United States considers a Texas case that may alter how states compensate landowners for their properties. Source:

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