Senate Democrats

Sotomayor: A Continued Commitment To Protect Private Property Rights

Judge Sotomayor Demonstrates a Continued Commitment to Protect Private Property Rights

RHETORIC:  Today, Republicans suggested that the case of Didden v. Village of Port Chester showed that Judge Sotomayor was hostile to the rights of property owners.

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR reinforced at today’s hearing that she is deeply committed to preserving private property rights, and has consistently applied law and precedent in this area.

The Second Circuit’s unanimous decision in Didden is a model of judicial restraint.

FACT:  Judge Sotomayor joined with two Republican-appointed nominees in Didden v. Village of Port Chester to reach a unanimous decision.  The judges in this case based their ruling on Supreme Court precedent and state and federal law, and declined to substitute their views in place of the law.

FACT:  Under the law, the plaintiff in Didden, a land developer, had three years to challenge the fact that his property was in a redevelopment zone.  Instead of filing suit within that window, he waited four and one-half years—from July 1999 to January 2004—before going to court.  The trial court dismissed his case on statute-of-limitations grounds, and Judge Sotomayor’s panel affirmed.  It further noted that, even if the lawsuit was not time-barred, the developer’s claims would have to be rejected because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo v. City of New London.

Judge Sotomayor has consistently protected property rights, including in a case very similar to Didden.

FACT:  In Brody v. Village of Port Chester, Judge Sotomayor authored a unanimous panel opinion in favor of a property owner who challenged the same development as the one at issue in Didden—and who filed his lawsuit on time.  After Judge Sotomayor concluded that the owner’s case should go forward because New York’s eminent domain law had the potential to harm him, the district court rejected his claims.  The case then returned to the Second Circuit, which once again ruled in favor of the owner, this time concluding that the Village violated his rights when it did not provide him a sufficient opportunity to challenge the fact that his property had been condemned for public use.

FACT:  The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm that represented the property owner in Didden, praised the Second Circuit’s ruling in Brody v. Village of Port Chester as “confirm[ation] that people do indeed have the right to challenge whether the government can take their property, and government agencies can’t hide the ball to deprive owners of that right.”

FACT:  Judge Sotomayor protected private property rights in another case, Krimstock v. Kelly.  In Krimstock, three automobile owners challenged a New York City policy that allowed the City to seize motor vehicles from individuals accused of certain crimes involving motor vehicles and then to hold the vehicles—sometimes for years—in hopes of gaining title in civil forfeiture proceedings.  Writing for a Second Circuit panel, Judge Sotomayor held that the Constitution demanded a speedy process to determine whether the government was likely to win the forfeiture claim.