Early Support for the Harmons From Prof. Richard Epstein

 

March 15, 2011

The Follies of Rent Control

Our federal courts have made a pig’s ear of property rights.


In my previous column for Defining Ideas, I wrote about a decision that caught the imagination of just about everyone from all sides of the political spectrum. What legal protections should be afforded to the family of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder for the gratuitous abuse that it suffered at the hands of the Westboro Baptist Church?


This week I am moving on to something different—a case seeking, at this late date, to upset the rent stabilization law (RSL) of that notable housing mecca, New York City. Harmon v. Markus is so utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things that the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dispatched it by a summary order on March 8, 2011, without precedential effect, less than two weeks after the oral argument. I only learned about the case because I met for the first and only time with the losing party, the property “owner” Jim Harmon, at lunch about a week before his oral argument. None of my sage words of advice made the slightest bit of difference, of course, to his untimely judicial annihilation. The court’s short and uninspired opinion was undeniably correct as a matter of current constitutional law. But for that very reason, it was also hopelessly defective as a matter of constitutional theory. Some account of how the Second Circuit decided the case, and how it should have decided it, gives ample testimony to the moribund state of modern federal constitutional law, particularly in the area of property rights.
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Two Years Later, Court Denies Harmon Rent Control Challenge

 

10-1126-cv
Harmon v. Markus
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
SUMMARY ORDER
RULINGS BY SUMMARY ORDER DO NOT HAVE PRECEDENTIAL EFFECT.  CITATION TO
A SUMMARY ORDER FILED ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 2007, IS PERMITTED AND IS
GOVERNED BY FEDERAL RULE OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE 32.1 AND THIS COURT’S
LOCAL RULE 32.1.1.  WHEN CITING A SUMMARY ORDER IN A DOCUMENT FILED WITH
THIS COURT, A PARTY MUST CITE EITHER THE FEDERAL APPENDIX OR AN ELECTRONIC
DATABASE (WITH THE NOTATION “SUMMARY ORDER”).  A PARTY CITING A SUMMARY
ORDER MUST SERVE A COPY OF IT ON ANY PARTY NOT REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL.
At a stated term of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, held at the
Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, in the City of New York, on the 8th day
of  March, two thousand eleven.