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Beefs and Beliefs

Supreme Court weakens property rights again

kellyvandellen-iStock-Thinkstock Picture of St. Croix river
This case of property owners at Troy, Wisconbsin, who were forced to sell at lesser value because of state regulations, in the future could hurt all landowners.
In this case, a state regulation reduced property value, forced owners to take lesser value, and SCOTUS agreed.

The Supreme Court this week chipped away at property rights when it ruled on a case from Wisconsin.

The court voted 5-3, in Murr V. Wisconsin, to uphold state regulations which essentially became a "taking" of property value from the Murr families. This was upheld in a lower-court ruling and worked its way up to the Supreme Court.

The short explanation, as I understand it, is the Murr families wanted to sell a parcel of land that was at one point valued at $410,000 and then boxed into a sale to the county for only $40,000. Instead they sued.

The Supreme Court justices broke out in their ruling pretty clearly along Constitutionalist versus revisionist lines.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his dissent, wrote the ruling was a significant blow for property rights. He said it would give greater power to government bureaucrats to pass rules that diminish the value of property without having to compensate property owners under the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito sided with Roberts.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor joined Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion.

Even if new Justice  Neil Gorsuch had joined the fray, which he did not, and come down on the side of Murr families, the decision would have favored government over individual.

An article in the Washington Examiner by the Cato Institute's Roger Pilon lays out the facts about as clearly as they can be in this case, and also explains this is part of an ongoing and troubling degredation of private property rights.

It seems clear to me we have a long way to go in shutting down judicial activism, both on the Supreme Court and elsewhere.

Pilon said it this way: "There is all the difference in the world between modern 'constitutional law' and the Constitution itself."

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