March 15, 2000
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2372. If the bill were presented
to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto it.
H.R. 2372 would shift authority over State and local land use issues to
Federal courts, creating a threat of expensive litigation that would favor
the wealthy developer over the common homeowner. This shift entails
radical changes to the existing legal doctrines of ripeness and
abstention, and would result in judicial inefficiencies and confusion.
The Administration is fully committed to the protection of private property, including the payment of just compensation under the Fifth Amendment when private property is taken for public use. H.R. 2372, however, would harm neighboring property owners, weaken local public health, safety and environmental protections, and lower the quality of life in a community by undermining the ability of local officials to protect their communities through local land use planning. The changes to "ripeness" and "abstention" doctrines would allow claimants to bring premature and inappropriate lawsuits in Federal court, thereby shifting authority to Federal courts at the expense of State and local officials. The shift could also greatly burden local officials through the threat of premature, expensive litigation.
H.R. 2372 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 when a claimant has declined to pursue available State compensation remedies. The Supreme Court has held that without a denial of compensation by the State court, a takings claim does not exist. Therefore, the very claims that are supposedly being expedited are likely to be dismissed, resulting in increased costs and delayed resolution of the issue.
Aside from the compensation issues, the bill's administrative finality provisions would raise additional concerns. These provisions would supersede existing case law requiring landowners to obtain a final decision from State or local land use officials before suing in Federal court. H.R. 2372 would require Federal courts to decide takings claims without the benefit of adequate factual records, thereby, forcing Federal courts to render poorly informed decisions. As well, this bill would further delay the resolution of pending claims by channeling more lawsuits into already overcrowded Federal courts.
In summary, H.R. 2372 would improperly and seriously interfere with needed property rights protections at all levels of government, especially local protections for neighborhoods and communities.