April 19, 2016

Amici line up in support of the Murr family

By John M. Groen Executive Vice President and General Counsel

Yesterday, eleven separate briefs representing over 30 entities were filed in the Supreme Court of the United States in support of the Murrs in this high profile regulatory taking case. Of particular note, the State of Nevada was joined by eight other states, pointing out that “Amici States’ interest is at its apex here” and that the rule adopted by the Wisconsin court “imperils the property rights of citizens.”

The Murrs allege an uncompensated taking by government restrictions that block all use of their vacant residential parcel. But the Wisconsin court ruled that because the Murr family happens to own the adjoining parcel, and enjoy a recreational cabin there, they have enough use of their property as whole. In other words, Wisconsin aggregates the Murrs’ separate parcels and thereby says that because the Murrs have not been deprived of all of their combined property, they have no claim. In opposing this view, the State of Nevada contends: “Aggregating contiguous parcels under common ownership into a single super-parcel will undermine traditional notions of property rights, have deleterious economic consequences, and encourage the undisciplined regulation of individuals’ and states’ property.”

Pacific Legal Foundation filed its opening brief on the merits last week, and greatly appreciates the support and excellent legal work of all of the amici. To read more, see here and here (paywall) for other articles on yesterday’s friend of the court filings.

Oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States will be held in October, 2016, on a date to be determined.

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Murr v. Wisconsin

The Murr family owned two separately deeded lots that were purchased independently by their parents in the 1960s. They built a small cabin on one lot and held the other one as an investment for the future. But when the time came to sell, subsequently enacted regulations forbade the Murrs from making any productive use of the vacant lot – and without any use, it had no value they could sell. PLF represents in the Murrs in a lawsuit arguing that the regulation was an uncompensated taking because it took away all the use and value of the lot. The courts ruled against the family because they owned the adjacent lot with the cabin, and therefore hadn’t lost everything.

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