The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral argument in an important property rights case, Murr v. State of Wisconsin, on March 20, 2017.The Murr case, for which NAR submitted an Amicus Brief, arises from a Wisconsin’s family’s attempt to sell or develop a small river-front plot of land which they acquired in 1963 for investment purposes. The family also owns a different, adjacent lot containing a small lake cabin they use for family vacations and recreation. The family wants to sell the vacant parcel, to fund the repair of their family’s cabin, which sits on a separate, adjacent lot that their parents bought several years earlier.
But government officials have forbidden the Murrs from selling or making any productive use of the vacant parcel. To avoid liability for an unconstitutional taking, officials are arbitrarily treating both lots as if they were a single unified parcel, even though the two parcels were bought by the Murrs’ parents at different times and are legally distinct.
The case poses a precedent-setting question: Can government take property without compensation simply because the owner happens to also own adjacent land? Are people denied constitutional protections for their property rights if government decides they own “too much” property?