DC: While the Senate Committee on the Judiciary grills Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court will decide one of the biggest property rights cases of recent years.
The case concerns a Wisconsin family who argue the government has unconstitutionally taken their land by refusing to allow them to sell it.
The Murr family owns two pieces of property on the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. They attempted to sell one of their waterfront lots (called “Lot E”) to finance improvements to a cabin they own on the second plot (called “Lot F”). The value of Lot E had been assessed at $400,000. Environmental officials blocked the sale for violating conservation rules. A county board further declared that state law required the two lots be merged into a single piece of property that could not be broken up and sold in smaller parcels.
If effect, the Murr family argues, the government-mandated merger of their properties stripped them of nearly half a million dollars, as they are now unable sell Lot E. They argue this constitutes a violation of the Constitution’s takings clause, which prohibits the government from seizing private property for public use without “just compensation.”
“We felt our rights had been violated,” Donna Murr told The Associated Press. “If the government is going to take your property, they need to pay for it.”