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Knick v. Twp. of Scott

Supreme Court of the United States

October 3, 2018 Reargued January 16, 2019, Argued; June 21, 2019, Decided

No. 17-647.


 [*2167]  Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U. S. 172, 105 S. Ct. 3108, 87 L. Ed. 2d 126 (1985),  [***7]  we held that a property owner whose property has been taken by a local government has not suffered a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights—and thus cannot bring a federal takings claim in federal court—until a state court has denied his claim for just compensation under state law.

The Williamson County Court anticipated that if the property owner failed to secure just compensation under state law in state court, he would be able to bring a “ripe” federal takings claim in federal court. See id., at 194, 105 S. Ct. 3108, 87 L. Ed. 2d 126. But as we later held in San Remo Hotel, L. P. v. City and County of San Francisco, 545 U. S. 323, 125 S. Ct. 2491, 162 L. Ed. 2d 315 (2005), a state court’s resolution of a claim for just compensation under state law generally has preclusive effect in any subsequent federal suit. The takings plaintiff thus finds himself in a Catch-22: He cannot go to federal court without going to state court first; but if he goes to state court and loses, his claim will be barred in federal court. The federal claim dies aborning.

The San Remo preclusion trap should tip us off that the state-litigation requirement rests on a mistaken view of the Fifth Amendment. The Civil Rights Act of 1871, after all, guarantees “a federal forum for claims of unconstitutional treatment at the hands of state officials,” and the settled rule is that “exhaustion [***8]  of state remedies ‘is not a prerequisite to an action under [42 U. S. C.] §1983.’” Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U. S. 477, 480, 114 S. Ct. 2364, 129 L. Ed. 2d 383 (1994) (quoting Patsy v. Board of Regents of Fla., 457 U. S. 496, 501, 102 S. Ct. 2557, 73 L. Ed. 2d 172 (1982)). But the guarantee of a federal forum rings hollow for takings plaintiffs, who are forced to litigate their claims in state court.

We now conclude that the state-litigation requirement imposes an unjustifiable burden on takings plaintiffs, conflicts with the rest of our takings jurisprudence, and must be overruled. A property owner has an actionable Fifth Amendment takings claim when the government takes his property without paying for it. That does  [*2168]  not mean that the government must provide compensation in advance of a taking or risk having its action invalidated: So long as the property owner has some way to obtain compensation after the fact, governments need not fear that courts  [**568]  will enjoin their activities. But it does mean that the property owner has suffered a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights when the government takes his property without just compensation, and therefore may bring his claim in federal court under §1983 at that time.

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139 S. Ct. 2162 *; 204 L. Ed. 2d 558 **; 2019 U.S. LEXIS 4197 ***; 49 ELR 20109; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 1020; 2019 WL 2552486


Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.


Knick v. Twp. of Scott, 862 F.3d 310, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12052 (3d Cir. Pa., July 6, 2017)

Disposition: 862 F. 3d 310, vacated and remanded.


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Civil Rights Law, Procedural Matters, Federal Versus State Law, Exhaustion Doctrine, Section 1983 Actions, Scope, Government Actions, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Eminent Domain & Takings, Real Property Law, Inverse Condemnation, Constitutional Issues, Procedures, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Constitutional Limits & Rights, Elements, Protected Rights, Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Courts, Courts of Claims, Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Interest, Just Compensation, Process, Remedies, Justiciability, Exhaustion of Remedies, Administrative Remedies, Remedies, Injunctions, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Relief, Local Governments, Judicial Comity, US Supreme Court Review, Judicial Precedent