Rethinking Regulatory Takings: A Preview of Murr v. Wisconsin on the Eve of Oral Argument

March 17, 2017

On March 20 the Supreme Court will finally hear oral arguments in Murr v. Wisconsin, a property rights case it agreed to take up in January 2016. We don’t know why the Court waited almost 14 months to schedule the case for argument and did not wait an additional month — when Judge Gorsuch might be on the Court — but better now than never. Joseph Murr and his siblings own two side-by-side lakeside lots, one with a recreational cabin and the other left vacant as an investment. Due to land-use restrictions, they allege that Wisconsin has “taken” the vacant lot, which would require the state to pay just compensation under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. Wisconsin courts rejected this claim by considering the economic use of the two lots combined. The Murr case thus asks how courts should define the “relevant parcel” of land when evaluating regulatory takings. Cato filed a brief in this case, arguing that current regulatory-takings jurisprudence is unclear and puts a thumb on the scale for the government. Another amicus brief, filed by Nevada and eight other states and co-authored by Ilya Somin, argues that the Wisconsin court’s rule “creates significant perverse incentives for both landowners and regulators.” Please join us for a discussion of one of the most important cases of this Supreme Court term on the eve of argument.

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