(CN) – The 1st Circuit tossed an “unusual takings claim” in which the Land Trust of the Martín Peña Canal challenged a legislative amendment stripping it of the title to land that originally belonged to public agencies of Puerto Rico and San Juan.
The land trust acquired title to the land through Law 489, which was enacted to environmentally restore and redevelop the Martín Peña Canal area and surrounding communities.
About five years later, Puerto Rico amended the law to retroactively revoke the land trust’s title and return the property to public agencies. The amendment’s stated purpose is to harmonize Law 489 with other laws and “to clarify that public domain lands are not transferrable.”
The land trust sued in federal court, claiming the transfer of land back to the public agencies does not meet the “public use” requirement of the Constitution’s takings clause.
“The essence of (plaintiff’s) claim is that if it is stripped of title to these lands and public agencies are reinvested with title, those agencies cannot be trusted to carry out the public purposes embodied in Law 489,” the ruling states.
The Boston-based federal appeals court saw no reason to question the Legislature’s approach.
“The takings clause is not a means for federal courts to second-guess the Legislature’s choices about the best mechanisms to achieve what are undeniably public policy goals,” Chief Judge Sandra Lynch wrote.
The 1st Circuit vacated its stay of the district court’s ruling for Puerto Rico and ordered the case dismissed.
In a concurring opinion, Judge Juan Torruella said the amendment “reflects a legislative judgment that the public purpose of community redevelopment in the Martín Peña Canal district is better served through public ownership of the lands in controversy.”