The New York Times: A Landlord’s Uphill Fight to Ease Rent Restrictions

 

THE APPRAISAL

A Landlord’s Uphill Fight to Ease Rent Restrictions

 

                                                                                                                Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
Jeanne Harmon and James D. Harmon Jr., above at their town house in Manhattan, are challenging a rent-stabilization law.
James D. Harmon Jr. learned the value of a house as a child, shoveling coal into the furnace of one of two Upper West Side buildings owned by his grandfather, a French immigrant who worked as a waiter. “Jimmy, you take care of your building and your building will take care of you,” his grandfather told him.
“But the word he used in French wasn’t building” Mr. Harmon recalled the other day. “The word he used in French was ‘maison,’ which means home.”
Now Mr. Harmon, 68, who grew up in one of those buildings — a bow-fronted town house on West 76th Street near Central Park — has gone to the United States Supreme Court contending that New York City’s rent laws constitute a “taking” of his property without just compensation, a violation of his constitutional rights.
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Harmon v. Kimmel – Pacific Legal Foundation Amicus Brief

 

No. 11-496
In the
Supreme Court of the United States
Ë
JAMES D. HARMON, JR., and JEANNE HARMON,
Petitioners,
v.
JONATHAN L. KIMMEL, in his official capacity
as Member and Chair of the New York City Rent
Guidelines Board, City of New York; DARRYL C.
TOWNS, in his official capacity as Commissioner,
New York State Homes and Community Renewal,
Respondents.
Ë
On Petition for Writ of Certiorari
to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit
Ë
BRIEF AMICUS CURIAE OF
PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION,
CATO INSTITUTE, AND SMALL PROPERTY
OWNERS OF SAN FRANCISCO INSTITUTE
IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONERS JAMES D.
HARMON, JR., and JEANNE HARMON

New York Rent Control Headed for Supreme Court?

 

November 30, 2011 RS Radford, Pacific Legal Foundation
Of all the failed policies of Progressive-era politics, none is more egregious than rent control.  And nowhere is the failure of rent control more obvious than in New York City, where high-salaried professionals and rock stars often enjoy a legal “entitlement” to pay rent amounting to a tiny fraction of the value of their apartments.


Originally conceived as class legislation, rent control in New York no longer even pits the haves against the have-nots.  It rewards the politically savvy, the well-connected, and the lucky, at the expense of both large and small property owners who make the mistake of providing housing to those who need a place to live.  New York courts have long turned a blind eye to the economic insanity and blatant injustice of rent control, reasoning that it’s within the purview of the legislature to enact insane and unjust policies, so long as due process is followed.

Oops, check that.  According to a recent decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, due process is no longer required.  In fact, a property owner who tried to argue that New York City’s rent regulations violated his due process rights was bounced out of court on the grounds that since (by the Second Circuit’s standards) rent control is not an unconstitutional “taking” of property under the Fifth Amendment, it is not even possible to allege that the law is a due process violation under the Fourteenth Amendment!

The case, Harmon v. Kimmel (formerly Harmon v. Markus) has now been taken to the United States Supreme Court.  Pacific Legal Foundation, joined by the Cato Institute and Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, has filed a brief supporting Jim Harmon in his quest for justice.  You can see the brief here, and read Cato’s take on it here.  Prominent law professor Richard Epstein has also weighed inon the Harmon case.

Surprisingly, the Supreme Court has never come down with a blanket statement concerning the constitutionality of rent control.  It has upheld rent regulations under particular circumstances (wartime emergencies, for example), and declined to strike down others because of problems with the legal theories under which they were challenged.  It should not be unreasonable to expect the Court at least to direct the Second Circuit to listen to Jim Harmon’s due process argument.


Atlantic Legal Foundation Files Amicus Brief in Support of Harmon Rent Control Challenge

 

No. 11-496
_______________________________________________
IN  TH E
Supreme Court of the United States
JAMES D. HARMON, JR. and JEANNE HARMON,
Petitioners,
v.
JONATHAN L. KIMMEL, in his official capacity as
MEMBER AND CHAIR OF THE NEW YORK CITY
RENT GUIDELINES BOARD, et al.,
Respondents.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI
TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

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.