Press Release

High-profile amici back PLF’s Murr property-rights case

WASHINGTON, D.C.;  April 22, 2016:  Dozens of high-profile entities, including national business, industry and trade associations, think tanks, legal foundations – and nine states – submitted amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court this week, siding with Pacific Legal Foundation in PLF’s precedent-setting case for property-owners’ rights, Murr v. State of Wisconsin and St. Croix County.

All of the briefs urge the court to rule in favor of PLF’s clients, Donna Murr and her siblings Joseph Murr, Michael Murr, and Peggy Heaver. Officials barred them from selling or making use of a vacant lot they own on the St. Croix River, without offering “just compensation” as required by the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, because the Murrs also own a neighboring lot with a recreational cabin on it.

The litigation is precedent-setting because the strategy used by regulators to avoid takings liability in this case has been employed in many parts of the country. Officials will arbitrarily treat separate, adjacent lots owned by the same person as if they were a single property – and claim that they can deny the use of one of the lots without compensation, on the grounds that the “whole” property has not been taken.

The amicus brief from Nevada and eight other states urges the Supreme Court to forbid this tactic and rule against their sister State of Wisconsin and St. Croix County: “Aggregating contiguous parcels under common ownership into a single super-parcel,” contends the brief, “will undermine traditional notions of property rights … and encourage the undisciplined regulation of individuals’ and states’ property.”

“Pacific Legal Foundation and the Murrs are grateful to all the parties that have filed in support of the Murrs’ property rights and, by extension, everyone’s property rights,” said PLF General Counsel John M. Groen. “As the ‘friend of the court’ briefs recognize, land-use officials cannot be allowed to do an end-run around the Fifth Amendment and its ban on uncompensated takings. If regulators tell you that you can’t use your land, you must be reimbursed. That’s a basic constitutional protection, and you can’t be robbed of it just because you might own another piece of property next door.”

The list of “friends of the court” in support of PLF in the Murr case includes:

Nevada, joined by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming

Chamber of Commerce of the United States

National Association of Home Builders, The Real Estate Roundtable, National Association of REALTORS®, along with five other national real-estate and building associations, and leading builders of America

California Cattlemen’s Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center

Wisconsin REALTORS® Association

Cato Institute and Owners’ Counsel of America

Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence

Mountain States Legal Foundation

New England Legal Foundation

Reason Foundation

Southeastern Legal Foundation and The Beacon Center

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported PLF is a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and free enterprise, nationwide. PLF represents the Murrs without charge, as with all its clients.

Case Attorneys

John M. Groen

Executive Vice President and General Counsel

John Groen has extensive experience in public interest litigation before all levels of federal and state courts.  He began his law career with Pacific Legal Foundation in 1987 and launched … ›

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J. David Breemer

Senior Attorney

David (Dave) Breemer developed a passion for liberty while reading classics such as John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, as he pursued a … ›

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