Defining Property Rights in the Takings Context
Murr v. State of Wisconsin and St. Croix County
Petitioners acquired two "substandard" lots on the St. Croix river from their parents, knowing that the property was highly regulated by federal, state, and local laws. When they brought the two lots into common ownership, the lots "merged" under both State and County law, such that Petitioners could not sell the lots as two separate parcels. Petitioners sued in Wisconsin state court, claiming that this merger was an unconstitutional taking of their property without just compensation. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ultimately denied their claim. Petitioners then sought, and were granted, review from the United States Supreme Court on the question of what constituted the "parcel as a whole" for purposes of the courts' takings analysis.
The Petitioners, the State, the County, and the United States participating as amicus curiae, all offered different legal tests for determining the "parcel as a whole." The State's test would require courts to look to all of the State's law of property at the time of the alleged taking to determine what the relevant parcel is. In this case, State property law included a merger provision under which Petitioners' property had merged at the time of the alleged taking, and thus the relevant parcel was the entire "merged" lot, rather than the two separate lots as Petitioners had received from their parents. The Wisconsin Solicitor General, among others, argued the case before the Supreme Court in March of 2017.
Status: The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.