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First Gov  

July 10, 1998

S. 2271 - Property Rights Implementation Act of 1998
(Sen. Hatch (R) UT)

The Administration strongly opposes S. 2271 because it would shift authority over local land use issues away from local communities and State courts to Federal courts. The bill would subject local communities to the threat of premature, expensive Federal court litigation that would favor wealthy developers over neighboring property owners and the community at large. The President will veto S. 2271 or any similar legislation.

S. 2271 would harm neighboring property owners, weaken local public health and environmental protections, and diminish the quality of life by undermining local land use planning. Through radical changes to the existing legal doctrine of ripeness, the bill would give developers inappropriate leverage in their dealings with local officials by making it easier to sue local communities far earlier in the land use planning process. S. 2271 also purports to allow takings claimants to circumvent State courts altogether.

The bill would violate constitutional limits on congressional power if read, as its supporters intend, to allow for a ruling that an uncompensated taking has occurred even where the claimant fails to pursue available State compensation remedies. The bill also would prohibit Federal courts from "abstaining" or deferring to State courts on certain delicate issues of State law. It would lead to poorly informed decisions by allowing claimants to bring claims in Federal courts without an adequate factual record, the very claims that the courts themselves have said are unripe for resolution.

S. 2271 would empower the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to invalidate Federal statutes and rules and grant other injunctive relief in a broad category of cases. This grant of authority to a non-Article III court raises a host of serious constitutional and policy concerns.

The bill provides that, by including a property rights claim, any litigant against the United States could ensure that the entire case would be reviewed on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, an approach that would promote inappropriate forum-shopping. This would dramatically increase the legal influence of the Federal Circuit at the expense of other circuits, thereby disrupting settled interpretations of important areas of the law.

S. 2271 also could override the "preclusive review" provisions found in many Federal statutes, including major environmental laws. These provisions allow for the swift and orderly resolution of challenges to Federal actions. S. 2271 would deprive affected businesses and the public of the regulatory stability needed to plan their actions.