Murr v. Wisconsin

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In Murr v. Wisconsin, the 5-3 U.S. Supreme Court held against landowners who wanted to sell a parcel of their property in order to finance improvements on another adjacent property.

The regulators, and ultimately the Court, held that because the same family owned both parcels of land, they could be considered together and the regulation was not a “taking” because they “have not been deprived of all economically beneficial use of their [entire] property.” The regulation did completely destroy the value of the parcel they wished to sell, by forbidding its sale due to its substandard size (and prohibiting development on it). But because its adjacent plot retained some value despite the regulation, and because there was common ownership between the adjacent plot and the restricted plot, the Court ruled they had not suffered a “taking” and were not entitled to just compensation.

Justice Anthony Kennedy penned the decision for the Court.

The merger of the two parcels under common ownership is what caused the property owners to lose the case. The Court upheld the ruling of "the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, which “agreed with the Board’s interpretation that the local ordinance 'effectively merged' Lots E and F, so petitioners 'could only sell or build on the single larger lot.'" (quoting Murr v. St. Croix County Bd. of Adjustment, 2011 WI App 29, 332 Wis.2d 172, 184, 796 N.W.2d 837, 844 (2011), attached as Appendix to Pet. for Cert.)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court had denied review of the appeal in this case. In an unusual step, the U.S. Supreme Court then granted cert. directly from the intermediate Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District III, without prior review by the state supreme court.

See also