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Supreme Court hears arguments on Florida beach restoration property rights

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Wednesday in Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report] on the constitutional scope of states' authority to modify property boundaries without a judicial hearing. At issue is whether Florida's restoration of storm-eroded beaches by modifying private property boundaries under the Beach and Shore Preservation Act [text] violates due process. The appeal follows a Supreme Court of Florida [official website] ruling [opinion, PDF] that the legislation in question does not unconstitutionally deprive upland owners of their rights to use and enjoy the shore without just compensation, confining its judgment to the context of eroded beaches only. Counsel for the petitioner argued:

The Florida Supreme Court suddenly and dramatically redefined property rights, converting oceanfront property into oceanview property to avoid the finding of a taking. It did so in the context of a beach restoration project which could have been accomplished without taking any private property at all. Given this Court's jurisprudence that a State's legislative and executive branches cannot violate the Fifth Amendment, we see no reason why the judicial branch should be treated any differently.

Counsel for the US argued as amicus curiae on behalf of the respondents that "what has happened here is the State has exercised, not just sovereign regulatory rights; it has exercised critical sovereign proprietary rights."

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