Supreme Court limits rights of property owners

Reuters – by Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday narrowed the rights of property owners in disputes with governments and laid out a formula for determining when landowners are owed compensation in a case involving a vacant lot in Wisconsin on the picturesque St. Croix River.

The court decided that government officials can combine separate parcels of private land in determining whether public officials have effectively taken private property through zoning laws and must pay compensation. The ruling could make it harder for property owners to prove compensation claims.  

The justices, in the 5-3 ruling written by conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy and joined by the court’s four liberals, upheld the use of zoning regulations by Wisconsin to prevent members of the Murr family from selling the vacant lot because the four siblings also owned an adjoining parcel of land.

The ruling set out a multi-factor test for courts to use to determine when a property taking requiring compensation to an owner has occurred, weighing how land is divided, its physical relationship to the surrounding environment, and the value of the land.

“This is an unfortunate decision for the Murrs, and all property owners,” said John Groen, executive vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative legal group that represented the family.

The state’s attorney general, Republican Brad Schimel, called the ruling a “victory for the rule of law in Wisconsin.”

State and local governments nationwide are grappling with ways to manage urban sprawl, provide services to residents and protect the environment, often by limiting the use of private property and leading to litigation by landowners.

Courts have recognized that in some cases, regulation can go so far as to deprive the owner of the value of their property, requiring compensation by the government. The legal issue behind the Murr family’s case is how courts should make that call.

The dispute began in 2004 when the four Murr siblings, who own two adjacent parcels of land on the St. Croix River in Troy, Wisconsin, wanted to sell an empty lot purchased by their late parents decades ago as a family investment, hoping to fund repairs to their family cabin on the adjacent parcel.

Citing zoning regulations, county officials told them it was too small to develop and they would have to sell it with the adjacent lot.

The Murrs sued, alleging that the government had effectively taken the land without compensation. Without the ability to sell or develop the lot, it had been rendered economically useless, they said.

A Wisconsin appeals court sided with the state and local county in 2014, saying officials had not deprived the family of their property because both lots were contiguous and could be sold or developed together.

The family appealed to the Supreme Court. Their position was supported by various agricultural, real estate and business groups, which argued that the Wisconsin court decision made it more difficult to prove the government unfairly deprived them of their land.

Supported by the Trump administration, Wisconsin told the justices that for conservation and other reasons under state law, adjacent lots that are separately too small will be merged if they come under common ownership.

Given the test laid out in the ruling, Kennedy said, the Murrs’ property “should be evaluated as a single parcel.” Objecting to the test, Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court after the case was argued, did not participate in Friday’s decision.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

9 thoughts on “Supreme Court limits rights of property owners

  1. This is why the Supreme Court is illegal under our Constitution. NOBODY has any right to decide what you do with your own land. What’s more disturbing to me is how the land taxes are applied, especially in this case.

    If I can’t use my own damn land in the way I want, why the hell am I paying taxes on said land? There is a tax case here that these people should argue. I would argue that I want taxes prorated accordingly to include the land that you will only let me use.

    They want to play like this, turn Eminent Domain against them to your favor. Make these illegalist pay you.

    “Eminent Domain. The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.”

  2. Proof positive that the Goobermint claims ownership of all land and We the People are their chattel.
    They didn’t say it in those words but they said it nonetheless.
    At least, that’s how I’m translating the Goobermint speak.
    If I’m translating wrong, somebody let me know.

  3. No one owns any land here. The moment you cannot pay the taxes on the property, it will be taken from you. The enemy force in occupation believes that YOU are their property, and therefore, from their perspective, you own nothing.

  4. Our governments were set up to DEFEND PRIVATE PROPERTY. So what that tells you is that the people “serving” within our governments are working from the inside to destroy our LEGITIMATE government.

    “Constitution of this state declares, among inalienable rights of each citizen, that of acquiring, possessing and protecting property. This is one of primary objects of government, is guaranteed by constitution, and cannot be impaired by legislation.” Billings v. Hall (1857), 7 C. 1.

    “Right of protecting property, declared inalienable by constitution, is not mere right to protect it by individual force, but right to protect it by law of land, and force of body politic.” Billings v. Hall (1857), 7 C. 1.

    “Right of transit through each state, with every species of property known to constitution of United States, and recognized by that paramount law, is secured by that instrument to each citizen, and does not depend upon uncertain and changeable ground of mere comity.” In Re Archy (1858), 9 C. 47.

    “Governmental power only extends to restraining each one in freedom of his conduct so as to secure perfect protection to all others from every species of danger to person, health, and property; that each individual shall be required to use his own as to inflict injury upon his neighbors; and these seem to be all immunities which can be justly claimed by one portion of of society from another, under government of constitutional limitation.” In Re Newman (1858), 9 C. 502.

    “As general rule men have natural right to do anything which their inclinations may suggest, if it be not evil in itself, and in no way impairs the rights of others.” In Re Newman (1858), 9 C. 502.

    “To say that one may not defend his own property is usurpation of power by legislature.” O’Connell v. Judnich (1925), 71 C.A.386, 235 P. 664.

  5. I have a simple solution.

    Kill all the priest class attorneys and lawyers.

    Take their Babylon black robes and burn them at the stake.

    Throw the Pope in there too.

    For kindling.

  6. Rights come from being born a human being. All rights are based on property rights. The most basic property anyone owns is their self. Rights are to be upheld by representative governments and not decreed or denied by other stern looking , bought off criminals in black pajamas.

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