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Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

June 5, 2017

TOWN OF CHESTER, NEW YORK, PETITIONER
v.
LAROE ESTATES, INC.

          Argued April 17, 2017

          ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

         CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT No. 16-605.

         Land developer Steven Sherman paid $2.7 million to purchase land in the town of Chester (Town) for a housing subdivision. He also sought the Town's approval of his development plan. About a decade later, he filed this suit in New York state court, claiming that the Town had obstructed his plans for the subdivision, forcing him to spend around $5.5 million to comply with its demands and driving him to the brink of personal bankruptcy. Sherman asserted, among other claims, a regulatory takings claim under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Town removed the case to a Federal District Court, which dismissed the takings claim as unripe. The Second Circuit reversed that determination and remanded for the case to go forward. On remand, real estate development company Laroe Estates, Inc. (respondent here), filed a motion to intervene of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2), which requires a court to permit intervention by a litigant that "claims an interest related to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest." Laroe alleged that it had paid Sherman more than $2.5 million in relation to the development project and the subject property, that its resulting equitable interest in the property would be impaired if it could not intervene, and that Sherman would not adequately represent its interest. Laroe filed, inter alia, an intervener's complaint asserting a regulatory takings claim that was substantively identical to Sherman's and seeking a judgment awarding Laroe compensation for the taking of Laroe's interest in the property at issue. The District Court denied Laroe's mo- tion to intervene, concluding that its equitable interest did not confer standing. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that an intervenor of right is not required to meet Article Ill's standing requirements.

         Held:

1. A litigant seeking to intervene as of right under Rule 24(a)(2) must meet the requirements of Article III standing if the intervenor wishes to pursue relief not requested by a plaintiff. To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff seeking compensatory relief must have "(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. __, __. The " plaintiff must demonstrate standing for each claim he seeks to press and for each form of relief that is sought." Davis v. Federal Election Comm'n, 554 U.S. 724, 734 (internal quotation marks omitted). The same principle applies when there are multiple plaintiffs: At least one plaintiff must have standing to seek each form of relief requested in the complaint. That principle also applies to interveners of right: For all relief sought, there must be a litigant with standing, whether that litigant joins the lawsuit as a plaintiff, a coplaintiff, or an intervenor of right. Thus, at the least, an intervenor of right must demonstrate Article III standing when it seeks additional relief beyond that requested by the plaintiff. That includes cases in which both the plaintiff and the intervenor seek separate money judgments in their own names. Pp. 4-6.
2. The Court of Appeals is to address on remand the question whether Laroe seeks different relief than Sherman. If Laroe wants only a money judgment of its own running directly against the Town, then it seeks damages different from those sought by Sherman and must establish its own Article III standing in order to intervene. The record is unclear on that point, and the Court of Appeals did not resolve that ambiguity. Pp. 6-8.

828 F.3d 60, vacated and remanded.

          OPINION

          ALITO, JUSTICE

         Must a litigant possess Article III standing in order to intervene of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2)? The parties do not dispute-and we hold-that such an intervenor must meet the requirements of Article III if the intervenor wishes to pursue relief not requested by a plaintiff. In the present case, it is unclear whether the intervenor seeks different relief, and the Court of Appeals did not resolve this threshold issue. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment and remand for that court to determine whether the intervenor seeks such additional relief.

         I

         In 2001, land developer Steven Sherman paid $2.7 million to purchase nearly 400 acres of land in the town of Chester, New York (Town). Sherman planned to build a housing subdivision called MareBrook, complete with 385 housing units, a golf course, an onsite restaurant, and other amenities. Sherman applied for approval of his plan and thus began a "journey through the Town's ever-changing labyrinth of red tape." Sherman v. Chester, 752 F.3d 554, 557 (CA2 2014).

         In 2012, Sherman filed this suit against the Town in New York state court. The suit concerned "the decade's worth of red tape put in place" by the Town and its regulatory bodies. Id., at 558. According to Sherman, the Town obstructed his plans for the subdivision and forced him to spend around $5.5 million to comply with the Town's demands. Id., at 558, 560. All of this, Sherman claimed, left him financially exhausted and on the brink of personal bankruptcy. Id., at 560. Sherman brought nine federal-and state-law claims against the Town, including a regulatory takings claim under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. See App. 98-122. The Town removed the case to a Federal District Court, which dismissed Sherman's takings claim as unripe. Opinion and Order in No. l:12-cv-00647 (SDNY), Dkt. 14, p. 25. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the ripeness determination and remanded for the case to go forward. Chester, supra, at 557.[1]

         On remand, real estate development company Laroe Estates, Inc. (the respondent here) filed a motion to intervene of right under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2). This Rule requires a court to permit intervention by a litigant that "claims an interest related to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest." Laroe alleged that in 2003 it had entered into an agreement with Sherman regarding the MareBrook property. Under this agreement, Laroe was to make $6 million in payments to Sherman, secured by a mortgage on all of the development, and Sherman was to sell Laroe parcels of land within the proposed subdivision when the MareBrook plan was approved. However, Laroe reserved the right to terminate the ...


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