Rutledge Urges Court to Protect Private Property Rights

LITTLE ROCK – (RealEstateRama) — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined eight other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Murr v. Wisconsin, which is challenging uncompensated regulatory takings of private property. The brief urges the Court to reject a new judicially created rule that would allow government too much latitude to heavily regulate land without properly compensating property owners.

This new rule determines whether a regulatory taking has occurred by looking not just at how much the regulation affects the piece of property itself but how much the regulation affects all adjoining properties owned by the same person. Accordingly, the more adjoining property one owns, the less likely a regulation affecting one parcel would require compensation by the government.

“This case comes down to simple economics,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Landowners should not be penalized because they own multiple pieces of land. However, if the Court sides with Wisconsin, it will make it easier for any government entity to take private land without just compensation. The Fifth Amendment was adopted to protect private property rights, and I urge the Court to rule in the Murrs’ favor.”

The Murr family owns two neighboring parcels of land in Wisconsin – one that is developed and another that is undeveloped. When the Murrs planned to sell the undeveloped land, they discovered a Wisconsin ordinance that prohibited the development or sale of the undeveloped lot simply because they own the lot next door. The Murrs challenged the ordinance, alleging a “taking” was occurring of the undeveloped land under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reasoned that no taking occurred because, when the properties were combined, the Murrs retained some usage of the combined property.

However, the attorneys general write, “Nothing in the text [of the Fifth Amendment] indicates that the requirement of just compensation might be waived if the owner of the property at issue also happens to own other property nearby. What matters is whether property has been ‘taken,’ not whether the owner still has the use of the lot next door. Any other approach makes a hash of the text, and diverts the regulatory takings analysis from the actual effect of the regulatory action on the actual piece of property at issue, to focusing on the identity of the landowner and other property he or she may happen to own.”

The case is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Led by Nevada, Arkansas is joined in support of the Murr family by Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. She is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected to the office. Since taking office, she has begun a Mobile Office program, a Military and Veterans Initiative, a Metal Theft Prevention program and a Cooperative Disability Investigations program. She has led efforts to teach Internet safety, combat domestic violence and make the office the top law firm for Arkansans. Rutledge also re-established and co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys General Committee on Agriculture.

A native of Batesville, she is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. Rutledge clerked for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, was Deputy Counsel for Gov. Mike Huckabee, served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and subsequently was an Attorney at the Department of Human Services before serving as Counsel at the Republican National Committee. Rutledge lives in Little Rock, and she, and husband, Boyce, have a farm in Crittenden County.

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