Press Release

PLF asks High Court to accept important Washington property rights case

CITY OF SAMMAMISH, WA; April 4, 2017:  Pacific Legal Foundation is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an important “takings” lawsuit against Sammamish for employing an evasive strategy to confiscate a landowner’s use of his property without paying “just compensation” as required by the Constitution.

PLF represents the property owner in this case, Elliott Severson, who purchased a parcel of commercially zoned property located next to other commercial development along 228th Avenue, N.E.  At the time he bought the land, there was ample space to build a small restaurant or store while respecting all critical area restrictions.  However, over the course of a few years, the city ratcheted up its land use regulations to the point that his property was rendered useless.

When government denies all productive use of a parcel of property, as happened to Severson, the Fifth Amendment’s “Takings Clause” requires reimbursement.  However, the city refused to pay Severson a penny — offering the excuse that he had already been permitted to develop neighboring (but separate) parcels of property in the past.  For this reason, the city claimed, he had not actually suffered a denial of his property rights.

“The city is using a creative excuse to deny justice — and just compensation — to a landowner who has been stripped of all productive use of a parcel of property that he owns,” said Brian Hodges, managing attorney with PLF’s Pacific Northwest office in Bellevue.  “We are asking the Supreme Court to accept this case because the Fifth Amendment doesn’t permit government to seize property without reimbursement — and bureaucrats cannot be allowed to define that mandate away.”

With its just-filed petition for certiorari, PLF asks the justices to accept Severson’s case — but to hold off on hearing it or ruling on it until the justices have ruled on another, already accepted PLF case, Murr v. Wisconsin and St. Croix County, which they heard on March 20.  As with Severson’s case, Murr focuses on the question, what is the “relevant parcel” for analyzing a takings claim?  Specifically, it asks whether landowners can be denied compensation for the taking of a parcel of property merely because they also own other, nearby land.

“In both the Murr case and Mr. Severson’s case, governments have essentially said that the more property someone owns, the more the government can take without paying for it,” said Hodges.  “The Supreme Court should call a halt to these efforts to subvert constitutional protections through regulatory maneuvers.”

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation, America’s most powerful ally for justice, litigates in courts nationwide for limited government, property rights, individual liberty, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations.  PLF represents all clients free of charge.

Case Attorneys

Brian T. Hodges

Senior Attorney

Brian Hodges is a Senior Attorney at PLF’s Pacific Northwest office in Bellevue, Washington. Brian focuses his practice on defending of the right of individuals to make reasonable use of … ›

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Jeffrey W. McCoy


Jeff McCoy is an attorney at PLF’s office in Sacramento, where he works on cases involving environmental regulations and private property rights. Prior to joining PLF, Jeff was a staff … ›

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Case Commentary

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By Brian T. Hodges

New PLF petition highlights the national importance of the Murr case

The US Supreme Court’s decision in the regulatory takings case, Murr v Wisconsin, is expected to come down any day At issue in that case is the so-called “relevant parcel” question, which requires courts to identify the extent of an owner’s property interests as a threshold determination in a regulatory takings case The purpose of this inquiry is to set a baseline so that the court cane determine the degree to which a government action impaired an owner’s rights It sounds rather straight forward, but in the decades since the Supreme Court, in Penn Central Transportation Co v New York City (1978), declared that a takings analysis

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By Brian T. Hodges

PLF asks U.S. Supreme Court to grant review of a Washington state “relevant parcel” case

PLF lawyers filed a petition asking the US Supreme Court to grant and hold the Washington state regulatory takings case, Kinderace v City of Sammamish, pending its anticipated decision in Murr v Wisconsin

The Murr case, which was argued by PLF attorneys earlier this year, involves the so-called “relevant parcel” question That threshold inquiry requires courts to identify the nature of the property at issue so that it can determine the scope of rights an individual had in a parcel of land before the government action diminished those rights—ie, the “relevant parcel” It sounds easy, and it should be, but it isn’t In

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