First English Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Cty. of L.A.

482 U.S. 304, 107 S. Ct. 2378 (1987)



Where the government's activities have already worked a taking of all use of property, no subsequent action by the government can relieve it of the duty to provide compensation for the period during which the taking was effective.


In 1957, appellant church purchased land on which it operated a campground, known as "Lutherglen," as a retreat center and a recreational area for handicapped children. The land is located in a canyon along the banks of a creek that is the natural drainage channel for a watershed area. In 1978, a flood destroyed Lutherglen's buildings. In response to the flood, appellee Los Angeles County, in 1979, adopted an interim ordinance prohibiting the construction or reconstruction of any building or structure in an interim flood protection area that included the land on which Lutherglen had stood. Shortly after the ordinance was adopted, appellant filed suit in a California court, alleging that the ordinance denied appellant all use of Lutherglen and sought to recover damages in inverse condemnation for such loss of use. The trial court found in favor of appellee county and the appellate court affirmed, holding that appellant could not recover for damages for the time before it was finally determined that the regulation constituted a taking of appellant's property. 


Did the ordinance effect a taking of the appellant's property?




The Supreme Court found probable jurisdiction and reversed the appellate court's decision. The Court found that U.S. Const. amends. V and XIVrequired that appellee compensate appellant for that period of time. The Court concluded that appellee's actions already constituted a taking and, therefore, no subsequent action by appellee could relieve it of the duty to compensate appellant for the period during which the taking was effective. The court reiterated that the government cannot take a private property without the payment of just compensation to the owner.

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