Murr v. Wisconsin

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 23, 2017
  • Case #: 15-214
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Roberts, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, common ownership of two adjacent lots may be considered as a single property for the purposes of the categorical takings analysis of Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U. S. 1003, 1014 (1992) and the regulatory takings inquiry of Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U. S. 104, 124 (1978).

Petitioners own two adjacent lots. State and local regulations prevent the use or sale of adjacent lots under common ownership as separate building sites unless they have at least one acre of land suitable for development. Petitioners’ lots each have less than one acre suitable for development. Therefore, Petitioners could not sell or develop the lots separately. Petitioners wanted to sell one of their lots, but the Board of Adjustment denied their request and the state courts affirmed. Petitioners alleged that the regulations were a regulatory taking that deprived them of practically all use of the lot they sought to sell. The County Circuit Court granted summary judgment for Respondent and the State Court of Appeals affirmed. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation. While property may be regulated to a certain extent, if the regulation goes too far, then it will be considered a taking. A regulation goes too far if it denies all economically beneficial or productive use of the land. If a regulation impedes the use of property without depriving all economically beneficial use, a taking could still occur based on consideration of other factors. Since a regulatory taking analysis involves comparing the value that has been taken from the property with the value that remains in the property, it is essential to determine whether the property taken is all, or only a portion of, the parcel in question. To identify the relevant parcel, the court should consider (1) the treatment of land under state and local law; (2) the physical characteristics of the land; (3) and the prospective value of the regulated land. Respondent would define the relevant parcel as the two unified lots according to state law, while Petitioner argues that the relevant parcel is the single lot they sought to sell. In going through the relevant factors, the Supreme Court held that (1) the valid merger under state law informs a reasonable expectation that the lots will be treated as a single property; (2) the contiguous geography of the lots make it reasonable to expect that their use might be limited; and (3) the restriction on using an individual lot is mitigated by the benefits of using the lots as an integrated whole. The Court of Appeals was correct to treat the contiguous parcels as one and Petitioners did not suffer a taking. AFFIRMED. 

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