In 2013, government agents forced Rose Knick to allow public access to a suspected gravesite on her farmland. Rose sued over the unconstitutional property taking. But a federal court refused to hear her federal claim citing the 1985 Supreme Court decision Williamson County. Rose has asked the Court to overturn this precedent so property rights are on equal footing with other rights such as due process and free speech. On behalf of Rose and all property owners, PLF argued Knick before the Supreme Court on October 3, 2018, followed by reargument on January 16, 2019.
Hundreds of years of property records find no gravesites on Rose Knick’s 90-acre farm in Scott Township, Pennsylvania—a rural area on the eastern side of the state. Rose lives alone on the property, which has been in her family since 1970. Other than farming activity she allows in her fields, Rose treasures the peace and quiet she finds nowhere else.
Lack of evidence notwithstanding, Scott Township officials enacted a so-called graveyard law and forced Rose to allow unrestricted public access across her private property to visit a suspected gravesite.
Rose sued over the unconstitutional property taking. But a federal court refused to hear her federal claim, citing Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank. This 1985 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court said property owners must take their federal property rights claims to state courts before bothering with federal courts.
Williamson County gave property rights second-class status, that is, the only rights guaranteed by the Constitution not directly enforceable by federal courts.
Rose has asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn this 33-year-old procedural justice-buster and put property rights on equal footing with other rights such as due process and free speech.
The High Court granted review of Rose’s case in March, and Pacific Legal Foundation argued for Rose Knick’s constitutional rights on October 3, 2018. At the request of the Court in November, PLF reargued the case on January 16, 2019.