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Constitutional Law – Government and Land Use Matters

Setting Precedent and Fighting for Your Rights

The Sacramento and Los Angeles attorneys at Kassouni Law have experience with a wide array of Constitutional issues. We have particular expertise dealing with government regulators and land use authorities. If you have questions about your rights, consider speaking with the Constitutional attorneys at our LA and Sacramento offices by calling (877) 770-7379. However, it may help to have a basic understanding of some of the key cases that have shaped our legal practice.

In the early days of our republic, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), that courts can review decisions made by government officials. Under this concept of judicial review, judges may issue orders to stop government actions which violate the Constitution. State courts have adopted similar doctrines to allow citizens to vindicate their rights as well.

Importantly, many of the protections guaranteed to citizens under the federal Bill of Rights are understood to protect individuals against overreaching by state governments and local municipalities. This was not originally the case; however, the Fourteenth amendment now incorporates many of our federal rights so as to protect us at the local level, just the same as at the federal level. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. City of Chicago, 166 U.S. 226 (1897), first established that the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause protects citizens from state appropriations of private property. Later the Supreme Court would recognize that other fundamental rights could be invoked against state and local governments as well. For example, Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), extended our first amendment protections, and Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U.S. 25 (1949), extended the federal protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Most recently, McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), held that individuals could invoke Second Amendment rights against the states.

The Sacramento and Los Angeles attorneys at Kassouni Law are particularly concerned with protecting property rights and curbing unreasonable environmental regulations. We routinely deal with four cases which have largely shaped this area of the law and set forth substantive limitations on the restrictions government can impose. First, Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp., 458 U.S. 419 (1982), held that government cannot physically invade any portion of one’s property without paying just compensation. Second, Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992), held that government cannot impose such draconian restrictions as to completely deprive a property of all economic value without incurring an obligation to pay the owner just compensation. Third, Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), held that government cannot condition your right to use or develop a property on a requirement to give up an interest in your property; this sort of exaction constitutes an unconstitutional form of extortion. Finally, all other property rights cases are reviewed under the standard established in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104 (1978), which requires courts to consider the economic impact of a land use restriction or taking, the owner’s investment expectations, and the character of the government regulation when weighing whether compensation is owed for such a restriction.

Additionally, our Sacramento and LA law offices commonly deal with administrative proceedings, a number of other historical cases are of particular relevance to our attorney’s practice. Though Euclid v. Ambler, 272 U.S. 365 (1926), held that zoning regulations and other land use decisions are generally Constitutional, the opinion recognizes an important limitation on the government’s ability to impose restrictions on your property: restrictions and regulations must be supported by a rational basis. California courts have recognized this important principle as constraining state agencies and local governments when making decisions impacting Constitutional rights. For example, a decision on a permit and license application must be supported by substantial evidence, and regulations cannot be adopted or imposed in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

Finally, government is also constrained by the principles of due process, which courts understand as restricting the way in which government can carry out its programs. Importantly for property owners, California has long recognized that due process protects a property owner from government taking away a property right that has been “vested.” For example, Jones v. City of Los Angeles, 211 Cal. 304 (1931), held that zoning ordinances cannot be applied retroactively, except to abate a nuisance.

The attorneys at Kassouni Law have the experience, education and insight that position them as premier Sacramento and Los Angeles attorneys. Their clientele are assured of an honest assessment of each case and an unwavering commitment to resolve every legal matter. Contact their LA and Sacramento law offices by calling (877) 770-7379.