Knick v. Twp. of Scott

June 21, 2019

139 S. Ct. 2162, 204 L. Ed. 2d 558 (June 21, 2019) 

The United States Supreme Court overruled its prior decision in Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank (1985), which concluded that a property owner did not have a ripe federal takings claim until he had unsuccessfully pursued an initial state law claim for just compensation.

A Pennsylvania Township passed an ordinance requiring all cemeteries be kept open and accessible to the general public during daylight hours. Rose Mary Knick, whose 90-acre rural property had a small family graveyard, was notified that she was violating the ordinance. Knick filed an action in Federal District Court under 42 U. S. C. §1983, alleging that the ordinance violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The District Court dismissed her claim under 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, which held that property owners must seek just compensation under state law in state court before bringing a federal takings claim under §1983. The Third Circuit affirmed the lower court on appeal.

The Supreme Court vacated and remanded, finding that its Williamson County decision ignored long recognized cases that a property owner may bring Fifth Amendment claims for compensation as soon as their property has been taken, regardless of any other post-taking remedies that may be available. A property owner acquires a right to compensation immediately upon an uncompensated taking because the taking itself violates the Fifth Amendment. The property owner may, therefore, bring a claim under §1983 for the deprivation of a constitutional right at that time.