New England Legal Foundation Racks up More Wins in U.S. Supreme Court Advocacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                               5-25-2023


CONTACT:    Burt Peretsky, <>, 781-696-5579



NELF Had Urged Uniform Rule of Law for Waterways Jurisdiction and Against Home Equity Theft in Cases Decided Today


BOSTON – The New England Legal Foundation (NELF – position prevailed today in two key cases decided by the United States Supreme Court. These decisions followed another case decided this week by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court which also adopted the outcome urged by a NELF amicus friend of the court brief.


In today’s decisions, NELF’s views prevailed in Sackett v. E.P.A., a case involving the extent of federal jurisdiction over waterways, and Tyler v. Hennepin County, which dealt with whether so-called “home equity theft” was allowed when the government takes homes for tax liens but does not reimburse homeowners for remaining home equity value after taxes are paid.  Massachusetts is one of the states where home equity theft was allowed, so the case will have an immediate effect in the Bay State.


In Sackett, NELF advocated the need under its “Rule of Law” mission for a uniform, consistent rule regarding federal jurisdiction of waterways in the United States. Earlier decisions of the Court had left the question of federal jurisdiction unpredictable and variable across the Nation. “It is important for citizens, landowners, and builders to understand the rules as they make plans to develop or use their property to its highest and best lawful use. Too often, federal jurisdiction was invoked without any basis for citizens to expect or understand where federal power began and ended,” said NELF President Dan Winslow. “Today’s decision is a step forward for rule of law so all citizens can be governed by the same standards across the country regardless of zip code or judicial districts.”  NELF’s amicus brief was authored by Staff Attorney John Pagliaro. “I am happy to see that the Court saw that there was no need to reinvent the wheel,” Pagliaro said.  “We asked the Court to adopt the definition set out in the plurality opinion of its earlier, 2006 Rapanos case, and today it did exactly that.”


In Tyler, NELF’s amicus brief explained that the historical basis for a taxpayer’s interest in tax sale proceeds lies in the pre-1776 English courts of equity’s recognition that land pledged for a debt limited the creditor’s rights to no more than the amount of the debt; any excess value remained the property of the debtor/landowner. “Today’s decision, grounded in historical roots of our Nation, confirms the rights of property owners to their hard-earned home equity and that the government cannot take that value beyond taxes owed without reimbursement.  This decision is a win for NELF’s mission of advocating for property rights and limited government based on rule of law,” said NELF President Dan Winslow.  NELF’s amicus brief in this case was also authored by Staff Attorney John Pagliaro. “Today’s result,” Pagliaro said, “will seem to most people to be just plain common sense and basic fairness, but it required the Supreme Court to establish that as a matter of constitutional law.”


“Today’s decisions mark the third time this week that top appellate courts have embraced outcomes advocated by the New England Legal Foundation,” observed Winslow. “Even groups opposed to free enterprise and economic liberty have begrudgingly conceded that NELF plays an ‘outsized role’ in shaping judicial decisions to embrace limited government and this week’s cases give proof to that observation,” said Winslow. “Once again, we have demonstrable evidence that amicus advocacy can be impactful in shaping the law to advance the interests of freedom. We are proud to make a difference for liberty.”


Burt Peretsky


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