Block v. Hirsh

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In Block v. Hirsh, 256 U.S. 135 (1921), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a government regulation that merely prohibits landlords from evicting tenants unwilling to pay a higher rent is not a taking of property requiring compensation under the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause. In other words, this decision held that rent control is constitutional.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a utilitarian, wrote the opinion for a sharply divided 5-4 court.

Justice Joseph McKenna wrote a dissent notably vigorous for its time, and he was joined by Justices Willis Van Devanter and James McReynolds and Chief Justice Edward White, who died the following month. The dissent included such pithy observations as:

  • There is not a contention made in this case that this court has not pronounced untenable.
  • There can be no conception of property aside from its control and use, and upon its use depends its value. Protection to it has been regarded as a vital principle of republican institutions. It is next in degree to the protection of personal liberty and freedom from undue interference or molestation.
  • If such exercise of government be legal, what exercise of government is illegal?

External Links

  • Case at FindLaw (registration may be required)
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