Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Uppity Landowners Hand Defeats to "the Village with no Character"

In 2002, the Florida Keys village of Islamorada enacted a land use ordinance that prohibited "formula restaurants" [read "Starbucks"] and limited the frontage and square footage of "formula retail" establishments [read "Walgreens"] -- so that no national chain business could operate in the "quaint little village" [or so the Council thought]. In 2002, Glenn and Virginia Saiger, owners of Island Silver & Spice -- an "independent" retailer -- had a contract to sell their store to a developer that planned to build -- Ohmigosh! -- a Walgreens! In Islamorada! (Islamorada already had a CVS drugstore....) Absolutely Not! Said the sage village Council. Not in our fair village! Never! The Saigers sued in U.S. District Court.

In 2005, Joseph Cachia received an offer to buy his existing retail store -- also independent -- from a corporation that wanted to build a Starbucks in Islamorada. Oh, my! Not a Starbucks! Said the village Council, essentially telling Mr. Cachia to pound sand. Mr. Cachia also sued in U.S. District Court.

Mr. Cachia, unluckily, drew U.S. District Judge Michael Moore (of the FEMA list, for those who own undeveloped Keys land), who bounced Mr. Cachia out of court on a motion to dismiss. Judge Moore held that, as a matter of law, the ordinance was supported by a legitimate state interest. The Saigers, on the other hand, drew Senior (formerly Chief) Judge James Lawrence King -- for whom the Miami federal courthouse is named. Judge King came to the opposite conclusion, writing one of the funnier opinions of his career, and held that Islamorada had violated the United States Constitution's "Dormant Commerce Clause." In his opinion, Judge King observed the village of Islamorada had no "small town community" interest to protect.

Mr. Cachia appealed Judge Moore's dismissal, and Islamorada appealed Judge King's decision in favor of the Saigers. The appeals went to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Atlanta, where they were consolidated for oral argument before Circuit Judges Tjoflat and Black, and a visiting judge, Judge Restani. Oral argument was on June 3, 2008. Both appeals were decided two days ago, September 8, 2008.

The 11th Circuit panel affirmed Judge King's decision in Island Silver & Spice v. Islamorada, while reversing Judge Moore's decision in Cachia v. Islamorada. The Island Silver & Spice opinion can be read and downloaded on the 11th Circuit's website here, and the Cachia opinion here.

$$$, anyone? Judge King awarded substantial money damages, plus attorneys' fees, against Islamorada, and the 11th Circuit awarded additional attorneys' fees to both Island Silver & Spice and Mr. Cachia. Mr. Cachia's case will now be returned to Judge Moore for a trial on damages. We can be certain that Islamorada will be handing over sums well in excess of $1 million -- all of which will come from the village taxpayer's wallets! (Maybe they'll start thinking about their wallets when election time rolls around.)

All in all, a splendid job well done. Congratulations are due to local counsel John Jabro; to Jim Hendrick for taking off his government hat long enough to support these landowners; and to Joel Perwin, appellate counsel for both landowners.

1 comment:

joe cachia said...

Hi all !
Its joe cachia and I really enjoyed reading the article about me. It was a very long road and thank god my wife and I had support. All this is almost over ! I would love to receive an email from Jim if your reading these posts.............Joe