US Supreme Court limits rights of property owners

Cameron Gross
June 26, 2017

"We will continue the fight for property owners and for the integrity of the constitutional right against uncompensated government takings", he continued.

In Wisconsin, a divided panel of three federal judges ruled in November that the state's 2011 Assembly maps were unfairly drawn to favor Republicans, less than half the statewide vote but - because of this gerrymandering - holding 60 of the Assembly's 90 seats.

The Murr family's lawyers have cited another landmark Supreme Court decision, Lucas v. "Although the outcome was not what we had hoped for, we believe our case will demonstrate the importance of taking a stand and protecting property rights through the court system when necessary".

The dispute began when four siblings from the Murr family tried to sell the vacant lot in 2004 to pay for improvements on a rustic cabin that sits on the plot next door.

Appraisals had valued the merged lots at $698,300, and at $771,000 if they were two separate properties. At the same time, cities and states seeking to manage urban sprawl, water pollution, runoff, flooding and other problems have enacted regulations to limit what some property owners can do with their land. When the family came to the county, now the only eligible buyer, the county offered $40,000.

In a petition filed in August 2015, the Murrs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to address whether the "parcel as a whole" concept from its landmark 1978 decision in Penn Central Transportation Co. vs. City of NY means that two legally distinct but commonly owned land parcels must be combined for the purposes of a takings analysis.

"I would stick with our traditional approach: State law defines the boundaries of distinct parcels of land, and those boundaries should determine the "private property" at issue in regulatory takings cases". Without the ability to sell or develop the lot, it had been rendered economically useless, they said.

As its current term nears its end, eight Supreme Court Justices will try to define an important test first posed by Justice William Brennan almost 40 years ago about property rights.

The case marks the first time in more than 10 years that the Supreme Court will hear a case related to political gerrymandering, and justices could take this opportunity to formally agree on a metric for what constitutes the unlawful drawing of districts.

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Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. With President Trump under investigation by the special counsel and his approval rating mired below 40 percent, his incentive may be to cater to his base with a pick as far to the right as possible, an instinct enabled by the Republicans' move, during the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. The country is waiting for the court to make its decision public about the biggest legal controversy in the first five months of Trump's presidency.

The Murrs eventually made a decision to sell the vacant lot.

Most of the attention to this case in the national press has focused on the potential impact of a ruling against Wisconsin on Democratic candidates' chances of winning more House districts after the next round of redistricting, following the 2020 census. The regulations barred building on any lots smaller than one acre of land.

Writing Friday at The Washington Post about the ruling, Somin said it is "likely to create confusion and uncertainty going forward".

"The two cases involve independent and complementary theories, which should give us two at-bats for the home run we need to resolve this very hard legal problem", said Michael B. Kimberly, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the Maryland case.

With Friday being the 12th anniversary of the infamous decision in Kelo v.

"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law and the Constitution grants them that right", Kennedy wrote.

A state appeals court rejected their claim, ruling that "contiguous property under common ownership is considered as a whole".

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