U S Supreme Court: Knick v. Township of Scott

[Posted below with permission from Lisa Soronen of State & Local Legal Center]

In a 5-4 opinion in Knick v. Township of Scott the Supreme Court held that a property owner may proceed directly to federal court with a takings claim. In Knick the Court overturned Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City (1985), which held that before a takings claim may be brought in federal court, a property owner must first seek just compensation under state law in state court. The Township of Scott adopted an ordinance requiring cemeteries, whether located on public or private land, to be open and accessible to the public during the day. Code enforcement could enter any property to determine the “existence and location” of a cemetery. The Constitution’s Takings Clause states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Rose Mary Knick sued the county in federal (rather than state) court claiming the ordinance was invalid per the Takings Clause after code enforcement went onto her property without a warrant looking for (and finding) a cemetery not open to the public during the day. In an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts the Court held that the state-litigation requirement of Williamson County is overruled. The Court reasoned the Takings Clause doesn’t say: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without an available procedure that will result in compensation.” The majority of the Justices were willing to overturn precedent in this case because Williamson County wasn’t just “wrong.” “Its reasoning was exceptionally ill founded and conflicted with much of our takings jurisprudence.”

 Lisa Soronen
Executive Director
State & Local Legal Center
444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515
Washington, D.C. 20001

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