A Victory for Private Property

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary This story begins in 2005 when a couple named Mike and Chantell Sackett purchased some land adjacent to their own property. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said to the Sacketts that the land they purchased came under the jurisdiction of the EPA and that the Sacketts had to restore the property in question to the wetlands they once were. The Sacketts refused, and the EPA slapped a penalty of $30,000 per day for every time the Sacketts refused to comply with EPA regulations. The Sacketts threatened to take their case to court. The EPA arrogantly stated that their decisions “were not open to judicial review.” This was not the case when the U.S. Supreme Court made its ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling has affected three important aspects of this case. First, the ruling makes it clear that all U.S. government departments and agencies are subject to judicial review. No department or agency can be above the courts or the judicial process. Second, the EPA did not have the right to unilaterally declare that private property legally purchased could be declared a nature without judicial review. Finally, and most important, the ruling is a victory for private property owners. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that private property is a protected right under the U.S. Constitution. While the ruling did not deal with what is called “eminent domain,” it has indirectly touched on the issue by making it clear that all federal, state and local governments must go through the legislative and judicial process for their actions to be legal.

Whether this will or will not help the Sacketts remains to be seen. But it means that now the EPA must acknowledge that it has a limitation on its power. Yes, limitation . An important word whereby the government must remain within its confines under the U.S. Constitution. Otherwise, what is to stop this government from just taking away anyone’s property—private or personal—at any time without any restraint? The U.S. Supreme Court has simply acknowledged what the U.S. Constitution says, and for that all of us can breathe a sigh of relief!

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