Here's the amici brief we filed today in a fascinating case we told you about recently.
The core issue in Brott v. United States, No. 16-1466, which is currently being briefed in the Sixth Circuit, is whether plaintiffs who allege the United States took their property in a rails-to-trails case can only bring their lawsuit for just compensation in the Court of Federal Claims. They filed suit in a U.S. District Court, and the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Our brief, filed on behalf of the National Association of Reversionary Property Owners, the Property Rights Foundation of America, the Pioneer Institute, and Professor Shelley Ross Saxer, supports the property owners' arguments that they are entitled to file the case in an Article III court. The owners' brief covers the issues very well, and we didn't repeat their arguments.
Rather, we covered a somewhat forgotten decision from the U.S. Supreme Court which we've mentioned here before, the case in which the Court held that the federal government had wrongly taken what is now Arlington National Cemetery from its owners, Robert E. and Mary Lee.
Here's the Introduction, to give you a better feel for our brief:
The story of how the Arlington, Virginia, private estate of General Robert E. Lee became Arlington National Cemetery—where more than 300,000 of our Nation’s honored dead, including presidents, generals, and privates have earned their final rest in its 624 acres—is at the center of this case.The Lee case is a great read because in rejecting the English notion of sovereign immunity, the majority contrasted the American system with theirs, and concluded that because we don't have kings, we don't have "sovereign immunity" especially in takings cases. The opinion, plus the book about the case are both highly recommended.
In United States v. Lee, [106 U.S. 196 (1882)] the U.S. Supreme Court considered and resolved the issues central to the present case: the Court held that Lee’s heir was entitled—after a jury trial in an Article III court—to ownership of the property. The Court affirmed that in our system—unlike those in which kings rule over subjects—the federal government could be sued in its own courts, and that the government had violated Lee’s due process rights and had taken Arlington without compensation. The opinion may have been rendered 134 years ago, but the principles which the Court enunciated on sovereign immunity, the independent federal judiciary, and the Fifth Amendment, are still highly relevant today. Our brief details the Lee case and its applicability here.
Other amicus briefs have been filed, and we'll post those separately.