NFIB

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Knick v. Township Assures Federal Courthouse Doors Are Open to Small Business Owners Protecting Their Property Rights

Date: June 21, 2019

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Washington, D.C. (June 21, 2019) – NFIB commends the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Knick v. Township of Scott today, which assures that small business owners who believe a state or local government unconstitutionally seized their property without just compensation can contest it in federal court.

“Property is often the largest asset small business owners have and today’s decision means that they have the chance to defend against state and local governments that unconstitutionally take that asset away from them,” said Karen Harned, Executive Director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “Small businesses and all Americans have a right to ensure no government – local, state, or federal – can seize their property without just compensation, as the United States Constitution requires. Today’s decision allows small business property owners to vindicate that constitutional right in federal court.”

NFIB filed an amicus brief in Knick v. Township of Scott, a case that addresses whether property owners who allege that a local government has taken their property can bring a lawsuit in federal court. Under a 1985 Supreme Court precedent, Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, landowners seeking just compensation for an unconstitutional taking of their property were subject to an unfair rule requiring them to litigate first in state court. The rule had proven problematic because litigants were then foreclosed from bringing suit in federal court after having lost in state court.

The Supreme Court first heard oral arguments on October 3, 2018, before an eight-Justice Court. The primary question was whether Williamson County should be overturned. The October argument focused mainly on the nature of a claim for a taking without just compensation. Because Justice Kavanaugh was not on the Court the first week of October, it reheard arguments in the case in January.

The NFIB Small Business Legal Center protects the rights of small business owners in the nation’s courts. NFIB is currently active in more than 40 cases in federal and state courts across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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