Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a county government ordinance which has temporarily shut down beaches where his multi-million dollar Florida home is located.
Huckabee filed it with his breachfront property neighbors against Walton County and its sheriff, saying the ordinance is unlawfully preventing them from “being able to use or even set foot in their own backyards”.
The lawsuit is stating violation of the community's Fifth Amendment rights, specifically the "Takings Clause", which states, "[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
It was filed Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida and says that local government is denying basic constitutional rights in taking 'social distancing' measures too far — to the point that police are infringing on property rights.
The complaint says that law enforcement officers “have been and are currently patrolling and occupying the private beachfront properties” without permission while threatening “arrest or fine Plaintiffs, their family members, or invitees on their private properties,” according to Lawandcrime.com.
“The Amended Ordinance is arbitrary and capricious. The Amended Ordinance purports to be designed to ‘prevent the spread of COVID-19’ yet it has the opposite effect,” Plaintiffs wrote.
“The Amended Ordinance prevents the Plaintiffs, many of whom own residences along the beach, from utilizing their own backyards to quarantine or stay safe at home,” the filing states further. “The chances of a family or landowner catching or spreading COVID-19 is far less in his or her own private backyard (where no one else should be less they be trespassing) than traveling to the grocery store or hardware store or other essential business.”
Previously described as the Republican former governor's "dream house", it's a three-story, 10,000-square-foot mansion, with six bedrooms and even more bathrooms, a pool, and direct beach access.
Perhaps complicating matters is also the fact that Huckabee has for years been in a public legal dispute to claim the beachfront on which his house sits fully 'private' - for which he's previously requested law enforcement help.
Mother Jones summarizes of that prior controversy and lengthy legal saga:
In 2012, Huckabee hired a lawyer and asked a judge to grant him ownership of the land stretching from the dune at the foot of his house down to the mean high-water line — essentially the wet sand and the Gulf of Mexico itself. No one appears to have protested the request, and the judge agreed, giving Huckabee the beach for a mere $400. Nearly two dozen of his neighbors have also quietly annexed the beach while escaping any additional taxes.
The result is a checkerboard of public and private space along the water’s edge for miles of Walton beachfront.
So it appears also at stake here is the complicated matter of whether the county itself is actually interpreting the stretch of beach as actually 'private' or 'public' property.