Only a tiny percentage of the cases submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court get reviewed.
Rose Knick’s case, however, is not only getting a review, it’s getting a second chance at oral arguments.
Her case is over her private property in Scott Township, Pennsylvania, and whether the township can simply say it believes there are historic graves there and declare her private land open to the public.
She’s been hampered by an old court precedent that federal courts won’t act on cases that should be in state courts. In her case, the state court refused to act, leaving her without any access to the courts to challenge the township.
She’s being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, which said although the case was argued Oct. 3 before eight Supreme Court justices, just before Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, the court has scheduled another hearing.
“Most experts speculate that the court rescheduled the case because the justices were deadlocked and need Justice Kavanaugh – who had not yet been confirmed when Rose’s case was argued – to break the tie. Another possibility is that the court is still deciding upon the best theory for overturning the 33-year old precedent that has so far robbed Ms. Knick of justice,” PLF said.
At the earlier hearing, two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, suggested courthouse doors could be closed to people bringing complaints of constitutional violations.
Town officials adopted an ordinance used to require a woman, Rose Mary Knick, effectively to turn her 90 acres of private land into public property. But officials refused her any compensation.
A federal court refused to hear her federal claim, citing a 1983 decision that held property owners must take their claims to state courts first.
But the state courts also refused to take Knick’s case.
The dispute arose in 2013 after the township sent officials onto her 90-acre farm without her permission. Without any significant evidence, they claimed her land contained gravesites.
That would require her to open her private property to the public seven days a week and trim shrubs and keep the area cleaned, as if it were a cemetery, or face fines.
“The Constitution allows government to take private property and make it public, like the township did to Rose. But it must follow one condition: the government must pay ‘just compensation.’ Yet Scott Township refused to pay Rose. In fact, the township won’t even concede that it has taken anything from her; instead it threatened her with fines of $600 per day,” PLF said.
In state court, the judge said he could not hear her case, and in federal courts, the judge said he couldn’t act until the state did.
“During the October 3rd oral argument, the justices raised numerous questions about Rose’s case. Several justices expressed interest in our argument that the township violated Ms. Knick’s Fifth Amendment property rights when it took her property without providing or guaranteeing her the just compensation required by the Constitution. Further confirming that interest, the court has now ordered Rose, the township, and the Solicitor General (who participated as friend-of-the-court in support of Rose) to address this topic further in supplemental briefs,” PLF said.