PLF files its Supreme Court reply brief in Murr v. Wisconsin

July 29, 2016 | By JOHN GROEN

The Supreme Court of the United States today received PLF’s Reply Brief on the Merits in Murr v. Wisconsin, filed on behalf of the Murr family. The case is now fully briefed, and ready for scheduling oral argument. It is expected that the Court will soon set an oral argument date, most likely in November.

This case presents a long-standing and difficult question that is critical to the protection afforded property owners by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The case is expected to produce national precedent for how to identify the “relevant parcel” to be considered in a regulatory takings case.

Here, the Murr family owns two adjacent parcels located on the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. One parcel, Lot F, was purchased by William and Dorothy Murr in 1960 and used for a family recreation cabin. The cabin parcel became the “gathering place” and is cherished by the large, extended family. The second parcel, Lot E, was purchased in 1963 as an investment, to be held vacant until some future time. In 2004, the time arrived to sell the investment parcel. But government officials–imposing regulations that weren’t in place when the property was purchased–have forbidden the Murrs from selling or making any productive use of the vacant parcel. They claim the Murrs can only sell the investment parcel by also selling their cabin parcel along with it. Of course, the Murr family loves their cabin parcel, and has no desire to sell it. Indeed, they want to sell the investment parcel precisely to help get the financial resources to make improvements and repairs to the cabin, so it is ready for the next generation to enjoy.

The Murrs filed a takings claim alleging that denial of all economic use of the investment parcel, including the right to sell it, requires compensation. To avoid liability for an unconstitutional taking of Lot E, the government argues that the economic value and use that the family enjoys in the cabin parcel, Lot F, should be included in the takings analysis. Of course, including the value of the adjoining cabin parcel dilutes the economic impact of the restrictions that are placed on the investment parcel.

PLF argues that only Lot E, the investment parcel, is relevant to the takings analysis. Although adjoining and with common ownership, the two parcels are each lawfully created as discrete and separate parcels, and they were purchased individually by the Murrs at different times, with different deeds, and for different purposes. PLF argues that under Supreme Court precedent, a presumption should be recognized that the full fee title to the single parcel should be the standard for applying the takings analysis. In this case, that is the investment parcel, Lot E.

Stay tuned for scheduling of oral argument. The Court’s decision is expected in the spring of 2017.