High court denies Wisconsin family's argument in St. Croix River property case

High court denies Wisconsin family's argument in St. Croix River property case

High court denies Wisconsin family's argument in St. Croix River property case

The Supreme Court today agreed with St. Croix County, the state of Wisconsin and the federal government that the correct parcel as a whole was the Murrs' entire contiguous property along the St. Croix River. They challenged the regulations in the state courts as an unconstitutional taking. "We will continue the fight for property owners and for the integrity of the constitutional right against uncompensated government takings".

Olivier Douliery - Pool via CNP/NewscomWhen governments issue regulations that undermine the value of property, bureaucrats don't necessarily have to compensate property holders, the Supreme Court ruled Friday. Under the regulations, the lots were merged into one.

Represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation, the Murr family appealed to the Supreme Court after they had been effectively robbed by regulators of a family legacy - a vacant parcel along the St. Croix River purchased by their late parents decades ago as a family investment. Nine states plus industry groups and legal foundations filed friend-of-the-court briefs opposing Wisconsin's position on the matter.

"The Murrs can still make good use of both lots, and that the ordinance is a commonplace tool to preserve scenic areas, such as the Lower St. Croix River, for the benefit of landowners and the public alike".

Kennedy also made a point of saying that regulations do not always detract from land value. "They have not been deprived of all economically beneficial use of their property". In the end, he said, the loss in the value of the Murrs' land was only about 10 percent. If the two land parcels are considered separately, the zoning regulation is a taking. 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.

"This is an unfortunate decision for the Murrs, and all property owners", said John Groen, Pacific Legal Foundation's General Counsel.

William Treanor, Dean of Georgetown University Law Center, said the decision would have a profound effect in cases involving wetlands. The ruling could make it harder for property owners to prove compensation claims. Courts must strive for consistency with the central objective of the Takings Clause: to "bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.".

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RICHARD LAZARUS: This is a clean, big win.

"There is no nuance to the ruling", he said.

"It is our hope that property owners across the country will learn from our experience and not take their property rights for granted", Murr said. "It just looks at the most environmentally sensitive part, and restricts your use of that piece".

The case was argued in March, prior to the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, so he did not participate in the decision.

Roberts acknowledged that the test he suggested might have ended up with the same result, meaning the regulations at issue would not have amounted to a taking of private property, and the Murrs would not have qualified for compensation.

Chief Justice John. G. Roberts Jr. dissented in an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.

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