Friday, January 9, 2009

Keys Commissioners in Denial

A Monroe County commissioner revealed the County's response to the Collins decision in a radio interview today. They plan to file a petition for review by the Florida supreme court -- no surprise there. But as Florida's District Courts of Appeal are intended to be the courts of last resort, the chance the supreme court will review the Third DCA's decision is zero. Florida's highest court reviews decisions that are (1) certified by a District Court of Appeal as being "in conflict" with another District Court's decision, or (2) certified as a question of "great public importance." (A petition for discretionary review, even by a government entity, does not trigger an automatic stay of the District Court's mandate, though government appeals to the District Courts of Appeal get an automatic stay.)

Option one -- conflict -- is not in play because the Florida Keys' Beneficial Use Determination process only exists in one Florida County -- so no inter-District conflict will ever arise. Option two -- "great public importance" -- is unlikely as well. First, the District Court panel did not use that language in their opinion -- and only the District Court judges can make that call, not the litigants. Second, what makes anyone with a brain think that a confiscatory local government's desire to acquire land for 15 cents on the dollar is of such "great public importance" that it should be continued? It's time to bring this charade to an end.

No word yet on what the City of Marathon plans to do in the Shands case, but Marathon does not have in-house, salaried attorneys as Monroe County does, so a petition for discretionary review would be a bit more expensive. We assume the County will finally terminate its outside counsel from Kansas City, after paying them at least $1.5 million to get to this point.

A skeptic might say that seeking discretionary review by the supreme court just adds to the time it takes for each plaintiff to get paid. Or that it is just a government ploy, hoping that fair market values (which they abhor anyway) might decrease in the interim. But the government owes these plaintiffs rent on their properties, at 10% of their fair market values (appraised assuming that they were buildable on demand) on the date of their Beneficial Use Determination application, and on each anniversary of that date, plus interest, until the government either takes title to the property by eminent domain. At which time it will also have to pay the fair market value as of the date of trial. This is called "rent-to-buy." So the bill keeps going up during these delays.

Bernie Madoff managed to steal $50 billion, for which we all must give him credit -- though it was all quite illegal. His "marks" probably knew something illegal had to be going on, but why worry as long as the checks kept coming? Monroe County and its co-conspirators in State government have been fleecing innocent landowners for more than 15 years, adopting confiscatory regulations that prevent people from using their property -- ostensibly under the banner of the local government. Then, the State government shows up on the doorstep and offers 15 cents on the dollar for your "unbuildable" property. What is this? A "good cop" -- "bad cop" con?

The only aspect of this government con game that is of "great public importance" is stopping the government from stealing innocent landowners' property. If the Collins plaintiffs -- the screwees -- had lost this case at the Third District Court of Appeal, then there might be an issue of "great public importance." As it is, our local "Bernies" deserve their fate.

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