Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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The Herrs bought property on Crooked Lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, hoping to use the lake for recreational boating and fishing. Most of Crooked Lake lies in the federally-owned Sylvania Wilderness but some remains under private ownership. Congress gave the Forest Service authority to regulate any use of Crooked Lake and nearby lakes “subject to valid existing rights.” The Forest Service promulgated regulations, prohibiting gas-powered motorboats and limiting electrically powered motorboats to no-wake speeds throughout the wilderness area. After noting “nearly a quarter century of litigation over the recreational uses of Crooked Lake,” the Sixth Circuit concluded that both regulations exceed the Forest Service’s power as applied to private property owners on the lake. Under Michigan law, lakeside property owners may use all of a lake, making the Herrs’ right to use all of the lake in reasonable ways the kind of “valid existing rights” that the Forest Service has no warrant to override. Michigan law permits motorboat use outside the Sylvania Wilderness. The Forest Service long allowed motorboat use on all of the lake after it obtained this regulatory authority and it still does with respect to one property owner. View "Herr v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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After the 2008 financial crisis, many banks foreclosed on many properties used to secure the underlying loans. According to the City of Cincinnati, Wells Fargo adopted a policy of violating local and state property regulations when the cost of compliance outweighed the value that could be recouped through the resale of a foreclosed property. The city claimed the violations created a common law public nuisance that lowered property tax revenues, increased police and fire expenses, and added other administrative costs. The parties resolved claims arising from any individual code violations and associated fines attached to properties named in the complaint. The district court rejected the city’s claim as a matter of law. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The economic-loss doctrine forecloses the claim for damages for a qualified public nuisance under Ohio law. The doctrine bars tort plaintiffs from recovering purely economic loss that “do[es] not arise from tangible physical injury” to persons or property. Absent allegations of an intentional nuisance or an inherently dangerous context, the city cannot pursue an absolute nuisance claim. The city did not identify specific nuisance properties and offered no evidence that the alleged “policy” of selective non-compliance with health and safety codes will inevitably result in a public nuisance. View "City of Cincinnati v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co." on Justia Law

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LCS, a nondenominational Christian school in Livingston County, Michigan, sought to relocate after operating for several years in Pinckney, LCS entered into a lease agreement to operate its school on the property of Brighton Nazarene Church in Genoa Charter Township. The Township informed LCS that an amended special-use permit was required. The Church applied for a permit on LSC’s behalf. The Township denied the application, citing traffic concerns, inconsistency with the surrounding area’s single-family residential zoning, the failure of the Planning Commission’s proposed conditional approval to mitigate these problems, and the Church’s history of noncompliance with the zoning ordinance and with conditions on its prior special-use permits. The district court rejected, on summary judgment, LCS’s claim that the denial violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. When a religious institution has an available alternative outside of a desired jurisdiction, and where the distance from the desired location to the alternative property is reasonably close, the artificial boundaries of a particular jurisdiction become less important. The record here does not indicate that traveling roughly 12 miles to Pinckney would be unduly burdensome to LCS’s students. Nor does the record demonstrate that LCS’s religious beliefs required it to locate within Genoa Township. View "Livingston Christian School v. Genoa Charter Township" on Justia Law