Law School Case Brief
Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan Catv Corp. - 458 U.S. 419, 102 S. Ct. 3164 (1982)
When the "character of the governmental action," is a permanent physical occupation of property, the United States Supreme Court has uniformly found a taking to the extent of the occupation, without regard to whether the action achieves an important public benefit or has only minimal economic impact on the owner.
The State of New York enacted legislation to facilitate tenant access to cable television (“CATV”). The law provided that a landlord may not "interfere with the installation of cable television facilities upon his property or premises," and may not demand payment from any tenant for permitting CATV, or demand payment from any CATV company "in excess of any amount which the [State Commission on Cable Television] shall, by regulation, determine to be reasonable." The Commission ruled that a one-time $ 1 payment is a normal fee to which a landlord is entitled. A landlord brought suit against a cable television company, which had the exclusive franchise for certain areas of Manhattan and which had installed cables on the landlord's building, both "crossovers" for serving other buildings and "noncrossovers" serving the landlord's tenants, before the landlord acquired the buidling, alleging that the company's installation was a trespass and a taking without just compensation. The City of New York, which granted the company the franchise intervened. The New York Supreme Court, Special Term, granted summary judgment to the company and the City, upholding the constitutionality of the state law. The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals of New York upheld the statute, ruling that the law served a legitimate public police power purpose and stating that the regulation did not have an excessive economic impact upon a landlord when measured against her aggregate property rights, and that it did not interfere with any reasonable investment-backed expectation and, accordingly, did not work the taking of the landlord's property.
Did the installation of cables constitute a "taking" of property which required just compensation under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?
The Court held that the physical occupation of an owner's property authorized by the government was a "taking" of property. New York law provided that a landlord must permit a cable television company to install its cable facilities upon the landlord's property. The Court explained that to the extent the government permanently occupied physical property, it effectively destroyed the right of the owner to exclude or control that portion of her property. The Court noted that Constitutional history confirmed that this was a taking and recent cases did not question the rule. In addition, the purposes of the Takings Clause compelled retention. The Court concluded that the amount of compensation was a matter for the state court to determine on remand.
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