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U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Takings/Unlawful Seizure Case That May Have Implications for Rhode Island Property Owners

The United States Constitution protects Rhode Island property owners from government intrusion or possession of their property under the Fifth Amendment. Also, it protects property owners from the unlawful seizure of property without just compensation under the Fourth Amendment. While these protections originally were created to protect against obvious and straightforward intrusions of the public’s property rights by the government, jurisprudence over the last 230 years has developed in a way to expand the protections offered by these constitution provisions, allowing property owners to challenge many government actions and regulations on constitutional grounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case from California that could expand the public’s right to challenge government regulations affecting business and property owners on these constitutional grounds. In the recently argued case, the plaintiff owns and operates an orchard for the production of fruit in California. The plaintiff has sued a quasi-government labor board, challenging regulations that permit union organizers to enter into the company property at certain times and solicit support for union membership and labor organization. The plaintiff sued the labor board, alleging that the permission granted by the regulations disrupted their business practices and amounted to a government-sanctioned trespass on their property without any compensation.

In the federal district court, the Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed because they did not allege facts that would show that the regulation had a meaningful effect on their possessory interests as a whole. The plaintiff appealed the district court ruling to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, who ultimately upheld the district court decision, holding that the Defendant’s regulation only allowed controlled, nondisruptive visits that were limited in time, place and scope, and that the visits did not meaningfully affect the Plaintiff’s property interests.

The plaintiff further appealed the appellate decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari and heard oral arguments on the case in March of 2021. Although the court’s decision has not yet been published, if the Supreme Court reverses the Ninth Circuit ruling, it could pave the way for property and business owners to utilize Fourth and Fifth Amendment Constitutional arguments to challenge union activity on their property.

When to Retain an Attorney in the Face of Government Intrusion on Your Property

The vast majority of constitutional takings and illegal seizure cases involving real property are much more straightforward than the recently argued case and often involve states or cities demanding the use or possession of private property for development or utility purposes. If you are a Rhode Island property owner facing a demand from the government to give up the use or possession of your property, there are state and federal constitutional protections that apply to you, and you should not be forced to give in to unfair demands by the government. The qualified Rhode Island real estate attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo will stand by your side and help you use every legal remedy available to get the compensation that you deserve or prevent the government from seizing your property altogether. Contact our offices today at 401-300-4055 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

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