The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Do Object Lessons Work? A Shift From the High Court.

In a number of speeches and in a number of pieces I've written, I've talked about instances in which the High Court does an abupt shift, and how this is the nature of the landmark decision. Specifically, I talked about this within the context of Kelo and the legal construct of stare decisis - basically, how it would have been landmark for the court to find on behalf of Susette Kelo and undo 70-odd years of eminent domain precedent.

With the changes on the High Court, I'd been waiting anxiously for the first property rights decisions to trickle out. There was some question as to where Chief Justice Roberts' philosopies on property rights might lie, though much less doubt when it comes to Justice Alito.

And so here we are with one such decision - this one having to do with the "notice" aspects of the government's requirements under "due process". It gives us an opportunity to see just how well "object lessons" like the "Lost Liberty Hotel" project have fared when it comes to putting public pressure on the Supreme Court, too.

When taking private property, government has to do three things essentially: the taking has to be for a legitimate public use, there has to be some form of due process (generally, government actually letting the property owner know that his property is being taken and giving him an opportunity to make a plea to the government not to take his property), and just compensation has to be paid to the property owner.

A lot of times, people focus on the first and third aspects - whether the use is legitimately public (cf, the Kelo case) or whether the compensation is just. But the due process component is how a great many of these cases are litigated - whether or not the substantive or procedural due process rights of the property owner have been adequately protected or if they've been violated.

One of the instances I've talked about is the old New York system wherein they wouldn't have to give actual notice to the property owner that the government was considering taking the property (or actually taking it). All they would need do is put a notice in the paper for two consecutive weeks, and the property owner would have to be scanning the paper in order to keep abreast of his own due process rights.

This, obviously, led to a great many instances where a property owner in New York would come home to find the deed done, with the government shaking its head and saying, "What, you didn't read the tiny notice in the back of the classified ads two weeks ago?"

This was upheld, too, by an earlier court. In fact, it took several attempts by the New York State legislature to change this, Governor Pataki having vetoed the first try.

It is this issue of notice that came before the High Court in this instance. In the past, the Supreme Court has given government quite a bit of a pass when it comes to protecting the due process rights of people whose property is being targeted - but today's decision in Jones v. Flowers reins in those expansive powers sharply.

The facts of the case are simple: Mr. Jones paid the mortgage on his wife's home after they separated and he moved away. The property taxes were paid out of an escrow fund through the mortgage. Once the mortgage was paid off and Mr. Jones ceased being involved financially with the property, nobody was paying the taxes on it.

The state of Arkansas sent a certified letter to Mr. Jones, but since he didn't live at that home, he never got the notice, and it was never picked up. The state got back the letter marked "unclaimed". Then they published a notice in the newspaper, which Mr. Jones never saw. They entered into a negotiation with Flowers, who bought the property... even though the ex-Mrs. Jones and her daughter were still living there.

It was Jones' daughter who informed him that this was happening, and thus the litigation began.

Though the lower courts found the State's behavior just and reasonable, and well-within their responsibilities as respecting the due process rights of Mr. Jones, the High Court did not. In a departure from precedent, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Majority, said:

"When mailed notice of a tax sale is returned unclaimed, a State must take additional reasonable steps to attempt to provide notice to the property owner before selling his property, if it is practicable to do so."

This is good. What's more, Roberts said that if the state knows that their attempts to notify the property owner were unsuccessful, then they are specifically informed that their responsibilities under due process have not been satisfied.

While the majority's decision can cut both ways (they still say that "actual" notice isn't required, and that the state can hedge their bets by not sending out registered letter), it's always nice to see a state's ability to take private propery slapped in some way, shape, or form.

What's also interesting is who joined Roberts in the majority here. It wasn't the usual suspects. Instead, it was Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer who joined in (and you all doubted me when I said that object lessons actually brought about results). Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy dissented on this, focusing on the reliance on precedent.

Clearly we need to do some work there.

The whole opinion can be found at:

- Andrew Langer

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Barreto Out - Steven C. Preston to be New SBA Head...

No comments on the dearth of posts.... here's a scoop:

Hector Barreto is leaving his post at the SBA. The President will nominate Steven Preston to be the new SBA Administrator.

Here's his official bio:

Steven Preston is Executive Vice President of The ServiceMaster Company.

Steve leads the Strategic Services team, including IT, Six Sigma, Strategic Sourcing, Strategy and Acquisitions. He served previously as the Chief Financial Officer of ServiceMaster, the Senior Vice President and Treasurer of First Data Corporation, and as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers.

Steve serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Visitors for the Northwestern University Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and as the co-chair for the Wilson Society, the leadership giving effort for the college. He also serves on the board of the Hinsdale Hospital Foundation, and on the advisory boards for Tri-Artisan Partners, a boutique merchant bank, and for Concentric Equity Partners, a buyout fund focused on the services industry. He has served on a number of boards of philanthropic organizations that support various children and inner city causes.

Steve has been recognized in CFO magazine in "The Next Wave - Finance Executives Who Will Make a Difference in the Next Decade".

He received his bachelor's degree in political science with highest distinction from Northwestern University, and received his MBA from the University Of Chicago Graduate School Of Business. He also studied at the Ludwig Maximillian Universität in Munich, Germany.

---end quoted material---

Best of luck to you, Hector. And I look forward to working with you, Mr. Administrator-designate.

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pics from the Morocco Trip...

I know I've been derelect - but as you can all imagine, things have been crazy. I wanted to put up some of the pictures from the Morocco trip...

First up is a picture of one of the entrances to the Medina in Rabat, Morocco's capital. This was taken at about 6pm on a Sunday night, and as you can see, there were throngs of people.

This is a picture from inside the Medina (or bazaar). An unbelieveable amount of leather goods - and as you can see, the crowds were intense.

This is the Kasbah in Rabat - built in 1195AD.

There are people living in the homes within the Kasbah - many of which were built after the 12th and 13th centuries. This is a typical "street" within the Kasbah. A lot of the homes have the years they were built etched over the doors - routinely we saw ones that were built in the mid-14th century.

This is a shot of the Andalusian Gardens, right up against the southern wall of the Kasbah. The air was redolent with the fragrance of the orange trees in the garden.

This is a Patton-esque map that hangs in the conference room of the Director of Morocco's Central Bank. It is dated circa 1950s. Got to have my picture taken just after we met with the senior officials of the Central Bank on the first real day of my trip.

This is Hamad Kassall, President of the Moroccan Federation for Small and Medium Enterprises, the Moroccan equivalent of NFIB. He and his wife were gracious enough to host our delegation in their home for dinner one night in the middle of the trip.

There are more pictures, and lots of stories, but I'll leave it here for now.

- Andrew Langer

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yes, I'm Alive!!!!!

I've started writing two posts, but have had to abandon them for the sake of time. I've already got 200-odd pictures, and by the time I've gone through them, selected the ones that I've wanted to post, edited them for size, and then gotten my Moroccan net connection working.... it's time to go to my next meeting.

This is an amazing country - beautiful, and a lot more green than I've anticipated. And the food is just wonderful. FSVC is keeping us tres busy - we're out of the hotel around 9, and then in meetings pretty much all day, then working dinners at night. I've managed to squeeze in some sight-seeing and shopping, and do have some good stories. I got a Medina shopkeeper to come down about 40% in the price of a lamp yesterday, and I'm fairly proud of that.

Last night, we had dinner at the home of the head of the NFIB equivalent here in Morocco, and it exceeded the expectations. Moroccans are known for their hospitality, and if you're invited into someone's home, you're in for a treat. I arrived on Sunday, and had missed the dinner at the home of a leading small business owner here, but apparently that was a very fun, very long evening - starting at 8:30, dinner at nearly 11, and then folks departed close to 2AM.

I leave it there for now. Oh, and for anyone trying to call me either at work or on my cell - I've been having problems calling out. Thus far, I've only been able to call home or receive calls from home or Janice's cell... and then, only after 11PM local time. But I can receive e-mail via my NFIB account on my PDA - that seems to be working perfectly.

So if you're trying to reach me, e-mail me.

See you all next week!

- Andrew Langer

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Calling All Eminint Domain Warriors!!!!

A last post before I go on my trip. Incidentally, it really hasn't sunk in that 24 hours from now, I'll be in Africa. With any luck, this will help me fall asleep while I'm on the plane.

Anyhow, got an e-mail from the folks at the Institute for Justice and their Castle Coalition. They're engaging in a membership drive. I'll post the text of the e-mail in its entirety - what I hope is that you'll sign up (and yes, put my name in the "additional comments" section - I'd love to get a t-shirt!).

We're at a critical stage when it comes to fighting this issue. As those of you who are more politically-aware know, it takes a while for hot-button political issues to turn from theory into legislation. This can be a good thing, in that it allows for well-crafted legislation to be enacted (it's bad to enact legislation in the midst of a perceived crisis).

But the down-side is, by the time the hot-button issue gets to the point where the legislation is being considered, the momentum to have it enacted has largely been lost.

That's where we are right now - lots of states considering serious eminent domain reform, and a lot of legislators asking where the proponents are.

Thus, the following message:


The Castle Coalition is currently holding a membership drive. By increasing our membership, we will be able to activate, motivate and train greater numbers nationwide to take legislative and grassroots action against eminent domain abuse. But we need your help!

For every 20 new members you recruit to sign-up for the Castle Coalition, you'll receive an official Castle Coalition t-shirt. If you would like to participate, reply to this e-mail and we'll send you sign-up sheets, brochures and stickers. Take these to your next coalition meeting or community get-together. Canvas your neighborhood. Ask your friends, relatives and co-workers to join. Share with them how eminent domain abuse has affected you, and why it’s important to take action against this growing abuse of power. Let them know that membership is free, and we will keep them posted on legislative and grassroots efforts, events and conferences in their state. When you’re done, mail the sign-up sheets back to us in the enclosed stamped envelope.

You can also forward this message to your friends and ask them to sign-up on-line at Under "additional comments," ask them to enter your name. We'll keep a tally of your new on-line recruits as well.

With your help, we’ll be able to stop tax-hungry governments and land-hungry developers from seizing private property for their own private purposes. And more members for us means more help for you, both for activism and legislative efforts. And together, we can look forward to a day when once again, every man’s home is his castle.

Thank you for your continued efforts in the fight against eminent domain abuse!

So, I hope you'll heed their call. Canvass, e-mail, volunteer. This is a fight for the most basic and fundamental of our individual rights, our property rights.

- Andrew Langer