NPRI’s case against federal government gains allies, national attention

Chantal Lovell

For Immediate Release

Contact Chantal Lovell

July 2, 2015

702-222-0642, 951-295-4855 (cell)

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s lawsuit on behalf of Victor Fuentes is gaining national attention, with two nonprofits jointly filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States this week. 

The CATO Institute and the National Association of Reversionary Property Owners, in their brief, explained why they believe Supreme Court Justices should hear NPRI’s case and rule in favor of its client, Victor Fuentes and his congregation, Ministerio Roca Solida (Solid Rock Church). The move comes approximately one month after the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, the Institute’s legal arm, petitioned the high court to hear its case.

The two nonprofits, which are both vocal defenders of property rights as guaranteed by the Constitution, affirmed the Institute’s position that the U.S. Supreme Court should reconsider a lower court ruling that unlawfully forces victims of constitutional rights violations to forgo one right to vindicate another, stating:

Congress can neither shield itself from its preeminent constitutional obligation to justly compensate owners by legislative fiat nor abrogate constitutional guarantees by adopting a legislative scheme that prevents Roca Solida (or any other property owner) from vindicating their constitutional right to just compensation.

On May 27, the CJCL filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court asking the justices to reconsider the 2011 ruling in United States v. Tohono O’Odham Nation, which effectively forces the Solid Rock Church to choose between its rights to freely exercise religion and procedural due process and its right to be compensated for a governmental taking of private property. The National Association of Reversionary Property Owners and CATO said property rights are a basic reason why government itself is instituted and thus should be protected:

Roca Solida’s (and every other owner’s) right to be secure in their property is one of the primary objects for which the national government was formed. In United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 949 (2012), this Court recalled Lord Camden’s holding in Entick v. Carrington, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (C.P. 1765), which provided: “The great end for which men entered into society was to secure their property.”

The filers of the brief went on to say that the section of the statute on which the Tonoho decision was based is no longer relevant, and it therefore must be overturned to protect the rights of individuals:

28 U.S.C. § 1500 was never intended to prevent meritorious claims, yet the government uses that jurisdictional statute to unjustly prevent individuals, businesses, and especially Indian tribes from vindicating otherwise meritorious claims.

Of the amicus brief, CJCL Director and Chief Legal Officer Joseph Becker issued the following comments:

Two other groups have added their names to the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s fight to enable Victor Fuentes and his church, as well as all victims of multiple constitutional rights violations, to be made whole. The U.S. Supreme Court misconstrued a jurisdictional statute in its Tohono ruling, limiting victims to seek relief in but one court, even if one court is incapable of making that victim whole.

The church sued the federal government after, it, acting contrary to the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution, altered in August 2010 the historic flow pattern of the spring-fed stream that traversed the church’s private property since at least 1881, diverting the flow of water to higher elevation points just outside of the church’s property line.  In so doing, the federal government “took” vested water rights belonging to the church. Making matters worse, on Christmas Eve 2010, coincident to area rainfall, water from the newly diverted stream overflowed its government-engineered channel, flooding and damaging the church camp’s buildings and property with the very spring flow that was both illegally and unconstitutionally diverted away from the church’s property just four months earlier.

In petitioning the Supreme Court for Writ of Certiorari, CJCL and NPRI hope to restore a path for the Solid Rock Church and others who have had their rights violated to be made whole, even in those instances where the government violates multiple rights in “one factual swoop.”

If the Supreme Court grants certiorari, it will revisit its Tohono decision of 2011 and, hopefully, carve a path for Ministerio Roca Solida to have its day in court and be made whole.

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Chantal Lovell is Communications Director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free market think tank.