U.S. Supreme Court
LUCAS v. SOUTH CAROLINA COASTAL COUNCIL, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992)
505 U.S. 1003
LUCAS v. SOUTH CAROLINA COASTAL COUNCIL
CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF SOUTH
Argued March 2, 1992
Decided June 29, 1992
In 1986, petitioner Lucas bought two residential lots on a South Carolina barrier island, intending to build single-family homes such as those on the immediately adjacent parcels. At that time, Lucas' lots were not subject to the State's coastal zone building permit requirements. In 1988, however, the state legislature enacted the Beachfront Management Act, which barred Lucas from erecting any permanent habitable structures on his parcels. He filed suit against respondent state agency, contending that, even though the Act may have been a lawful exercise of the State's police power, the ban on construction deprived him of all "economically viable use" of his property, and therefore effected a "taking" under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that required the payment of just compensation. See, e.g., Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 261 . The state trial court agreed, finding that the ban rendered Lucas' parcels "valueless," and entered an award exceeding $1.2 million. In reversing, the State Supreme Court held itself bound, in light of Lucas' failure to attack the Act's validity, to accept the legislature's "uncontested . . . findings" that new construction in the coastal zone threatened a valuable public resource. The court ruled that, under the Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 , line of cases, when a regulation is designed to prevent "harmful or noxious uses" of property akin to public nuisances, no compensation is owing under the Takings Clause regardless of the regulation's effect on the property's value.
JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1986, petitioner David H. Lucas paid $975,000 for two residential lots on the Isle of Palms in Charleston County, South Carolina, on which he intended to build single-family homes. In 1988, however, the South Carolina Legislature enacted the Beachfront Management Act, S.C.Code Ann. 48-39250 et seq. (Supp. 1990), which had the direct effect of barring petitioner from erecting any permanent habitable structures on his two parcels. See 48-39-290(A). A state trial court found that this prohibition rendered Lucas' parcels "valueless." App. to Pet. for Cert. 37. This case requires us to decide whether the Act's dramatic effect on the economic value of Lucas' lots accomplished a taking of private property under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments requiring the payment of "just compensation." U.S. Const., Amdt. 5.
South Carolina's expressed interest in intensively managing development activities in the so-called "coastal zone" dates from 1977 when, in the aftermath of Congress's passage of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 1280, as amended, 16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq., the legislature enacted a Coastal Zone Management Act of its own. See S.C.Code Ann. 4839-10 et seq. (1987). In its original form, the South Carolina Act required owners of coastal zone land that qualified as a "critical area" (defined in the legislation to include beaches and immediately adjacent sand dunes, 439-10(J)) to obtain a permit from the newly created South Carolina Coastal (Council) (respondent here) prior to committing the land to a "use other than the use the critical area was devoted to on [September 28, 1977]." 48-39-130(A).
In the late 1970's, Lucas and others began extensive residential development of the Isle of Palms, a barrier island situated eastward of the city of Charleston. Toward the close of the development cycle for one residential subdivision known as "Beachwood East," Lucas, in 1986, purchased the two lots at issue in this litigation for his own account. No portion of the lots, which were located approximately 300 feet from the beach, qualified as a "critical area" under the 1977 Act; accordingly, at the time Lucas acquired these parcels, he was not legally obliged to obtain a permit from the Council in advance of any development activity. His intention with respect to the lots was to do what the owners of the immediately adjacent parcels had already done: erect single-family residences. He commissioned architectural drawings for this purpose.
The Beachfront Management Act brought Lucas' plans to an abrupt end. Under that 1988 legislation, the Council was directed to establish a "baseline" connecting the landward-most "point[s] of erosion . . . during the past forty years" in the region of the Isle of Palms that includes Lucas' lots. S.C.Code Ann. 48-39-280(A)(2) (Supp. 1988). 1 In action not challenged here, the Council fixed this baseline landward of Lucas' parcels. That was significant, for under the Act, construction of occupable improvements 2 was flatly prohibited seaward of a line drawn 20 feet landward of, and parallel to, the baseline. 48-39290(A). The Act provided no exceptions.
Lucas promptly filed suit in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, contending that the Beachfront Management Act's construction bar effected a taking of his property without just compensation. Lucas did not take issue with the validity of the Act as a lawful exercise of South Carolina's police power, but contended that the Act's complete extinguishment of his property's value entitled him to compensation regardless of whether the legislature had acted in furtherance of legitimate police power objectives. Following a bench trial, the court agreed. Among its factual determinations was the finding that, at the time Lucas purchased the two lots, both were zoned for single-family residential construction and . . . there were no restrictions imposed upon such use of the property by either the State of South Carolina, the County of Charleston, or the Town of the Isle of Palms. App. to Pet. for Cert. 36. The trial court further found that the Beachfront Management Act decreed a permanent ban on construction insofar as Lucas' lots were concerned, and that this prohibition deprive[d] Lucas of any reasonable economic use of the lots, . . . eliminated the unrestricted right of use, and render[ed] them valueless. Id., at 37. The court thus concluded that Lucas' properties had been "taken" by operation of the Act, and it ordered respondent to pay "just compensation" in the amount of $1,232,387.50. Id., at 40.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina reversed. It found dispositive what it described as Lucas' concession "that the Beachfront Management Act [was] properly and validly designed to preserve . . . South Carolina's beaches." 304 S.C. 376, 379, 404 S.E.2d 895, 896 (1991). Failing an attack on the validity of the statute as such, the court believed itself bound to accept the "uncontested . . . findings" of the South Carolina Legislature that new construction in the coastal zone - such as petitioner intended - threatened this public resource. Id., at 383, 404 S.E.2d, at 898. The court ruled that, when a regulation respecting the use of property is designed "to prevent serious public harm," id., at 383, 404 S.E.2d, at 899 (citing, inter alia, Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 (1887)), no compensation is owing under the Takings Clause regardless of the regulation's effect on the property's value.
Prior to Justice Holmes' exposition in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393 (1922), it was generally thought that the Takings Clause reached only a "direct appropriation" of property, Legal Tender Cases, 12 Wall. 457, 551 (1871), or the functional equivalent of a "practical ouster of [the owner's] possession.'" Transportation Co. v. Chicago, 99 U.S. 635, 642 (1879). See also Gibson v. United States, 166 U.S. 269, 275 -276 (1897). Justice Holmes recognized in Mahon, however, that, if the protection against physical appropriations of private property was to be meaningfully enforced, the government's power to redefine the range of interests included in the ownership of property was necessarily constrained by constitutional limits. 260 U.S., at 414 -415. If, instead, the uses of private property were subject to unbridled, uncompensated qualification under the police power, the natural tendency of human nature [would be] to extend the qualification more and more until at last private property disappear[ed]. Id., at 415. These considerations gave birth in that case to the oft-cited maxim that, "while property may be regulated to a certain extent, if regulation goes too far, it will be recognized as a taking." Ibid.
Nevertheless, our decision in Mahon offered little insight into when, and under what circumstances, a given regulation would be seen as going "too far" for purposes of the Fifth Amendment. In 70-odd years of succeeding "regulatory takings" jurisprudence, we have generally eschewed any "`set formula'" for determining how far is too far, preferring to "engag[e] in . . . essentially ad hoc, factual inquiries." Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 124 (1978) (quoting Goldblatt v. Hempstead, 369 U.S. 590, 594 (1962)). See Epstein, Takings: Descent and Resurrection, 1987 S.Ct. Rev. 1, 4. We have, however, described at least two discrete categories of regulatory action as compensable without case-specific inquiry into the public interest advanced in support of the restraint. The first encompasses regulations that compel the property owner to suffer a physical "invasion" of his property. In general (at least with regard to permanent invasions), no matter how minute the intrusion, and no matter how weighty the public purpose behind it, we have required compensation. For example, in Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp., 458 U.S. 419 (1982), we determined that New York's law requiring landlords to allow television cable companies to emplace cable facilities in their apartment buildings constituted a taking, id., at 435-440, even though the facilities occupied, at most, only 1 1/2 cubic feet of the landlords' property, see id., at 438, n. 16. See also United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256, 265 , and n. 10 (1946) (physical invasions of airspace); cf. Kaiser Aetna v. United States, 444 U.S. 164 (1979) (imposition of navigational servitude upon private marina).
The second situation in which we have found categorical treatment appropriate is where regulation denies all economically beneficial or productive use of land. See Agins, 447 U.S., at 260 ; see also Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n, 483 U.S. 825, 834 (1987); Keystone Bituminous Coal Assn. v. DeBenedictis, 480 U.S. 470, 495 (1987); Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc., 452 U.S. 264, 295-296 (1981). 6 As we have said on numerous occasions, the Fifth Amendment is violated when land use regulation "does not substantially advance legitimate state interests or denies an owner economically viable use of his land." Agins, supra, at 260 (citations omitted) (emphasis added).
We have never set forth the justification for this rule. Perhaps it is simply, as Justice Brennan suggested, that total deprivation of beneficial use is, from the landowner's point of view, the equivalent of a physical appropriation. See San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. San Diego, 450 U.S., at 652 (dissenting opinion). "[F]or what is the land but the profit thereof[?]" 1 E. Coke, Institutes, ch. 1, 1 (1st Am. ed. 1812). Surely, at least, in the extraordinary circumstance when no productive or economically beneficial use of land is permitted, it is less realistic to indulge our usual assumption that the legislature is simply "adjusting the benefits and burdens of economic life," Penn Central Transportation Co., 438 U.S., at 124, in a manner that secures an "average reciprocity of advantage" to everyone concerned. Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S., at 415 . And the functional basis for permitting the government, by regulation, to affect property values without compensation - that Government hardly could go on if, to some extent, values incident to property could not be diminished without paying for every such change in the general law, id., at 413 - does not apply to the relatively rare situations where the government has deprived a landowner of all economically beneficial uses.
The trial court found Lucas' two beachfront lots to have been rendered valueless by respondent's enforcement of the coastal-zone construction ban. 9 Under Lucas' theory of the case, which rested upon our "no economically viable use" statements, that finding entitled him to compensation. Lucas believed it unnecessary to take issue with either the purposes behind the Beachfront Management Act or the means chosen by the South Carolina Legislature to effectuate those purposes. The South Carolina Supreme Court, however, thought otherwise. In its view, the Beachfront Management Act was no ordinary enactment, but involved an exercise of South Carolina's "police powers" to mitigate the harm to the public interest that petitioner's use of his land might occasion. 304 S.C., at 384, 404 S.E.2d, at 899. By neglecting to dispute the findings enumerated in the Act or otherwise to challenge the legislature's purposes, petitioner concede[d] that the beach/dune area of South Carolina's shores is an extremely valuable public resource; that the erection of new construction, inter alia, contributes to the erosion and destruction of this public resource; and that discouraging new construction in close proximity to the beach/ dune area is necessary to prevent a great public harm. Id., at 382-383, 404 S.E.2d, at 898. In the court's view, these concessions brought petitioner's challenge within a long line of this Court's cases sustaining against Due Process and Takings Clause challenges the State's use of its "police powers" to enjoin a property owner from activities akin to public nuisances
Where the State seeks to sustain regulation that deprives land of all economically beneficial use, we think it may resist compensation only if the logically antecedent inquiry into the nature of the owner's estate shows that the proscribed use interests were not part of his title to begin with. This accords, we think, with our "takings" jurisprudence, which has traditionally been guided by the understandings of our citizens regarding the content of, and the State's power over, the "bundle of rights" that they acquire when they obtain title to property. It seems to us that the property owner necessarily expects the uses of his property to be restricted, from time to time, by various measures newly enacted by the State in legitimate exercise of its police powers; "[a]s long recognized, some values are enjoyed under an implied limitation, and must yield to the police power." Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S., at 413 . And in the case of personal property, by reason of the State's traditionally high degree of control over commercial dealings, he ought to be aware of the possibility that new regulation might even render his property economically worthless (at least if the property's only economically productive use is sale or manufacture for sale). See Andrus v. Allard, 444 U.S. 51, 66 -67 (1979) (prohibition on sale of eagle feathers). In the case of land, however, we think the notion pressed by the Council that title is somehow held subject to the "implied limitation" that the State may subsequently eliminate all economically valuable use is inconsistent with the historical compact recorded in the Takings Clause that has become part of our constitutional culture.
The "total taking" inquiry we require today will ordinarily entail (as the application of state nuisance law ordinarily entails) analysis of, among other things, the degree of harm to public lands and resources, or adjacent private property, posed by the claimant's proposed activities, see, e.g., Restatement (Second) of Torts 826, 827, the social value of the claimant's activities and their suitability to the locality in question, see, e.g., id., 828(a) and (b), 831, and the relative ease with which the alleged harm can be avoided through measures taken by the claimant and the government (or adjacent private landowners) alike, see, e.g., id., 827(e), 828(c), 830. The fact that a particular use has long been engaged in by similarly situated owners ordinarily imports a lack of any common law prohibition (though changed circumstances or new knowledge may make what was previously permissible no longer so, id., see 827, Comment g). So also does the fact that other landowners, similarly situated, are permitted to continue the use denied to the claimant.
It seems unlikely that common law principles would have prevented the erection of any habitable or productive improvements on petitioner's land; they rarely support prohibition of the "essential use" of land, Curtin v. Benson, 222 U.S. 78, 86 (1911). The question, however, is one of state law to be dealt with on remand. We emphasize that, to win its case, South Carolina must do more than proffer the legislature's declaration that the uses Lucas desires are inconsistent with the public interest, or the conclusory assertion that they violate a common law maxim such as sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas. As we have said, a "State, by ipse dixit, may not transform private property into public property without compensation. . . ." Webb's Fabulous Pharmacies, Inc. v. Beckwith, 449 U.S. 155, 164 (1980). Instead, as it would be required to do if it sought to restrain Lucas in a common law action for public nuisance, South Carolina must identify background principles of nuisance and property law that prohibit the uses he now intends in the circumstances in which the property is presently found. Only on this showing can the State fairly claim that, in proscribing all such beneficial uses, the Beachfront Management Act is taking nothing. 18
* * *
The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, J., dissenting.
Today the Court launches a missile to kill a mouse.
The State of South Carolina prohibited petitioner Lucas from building a permanent structure on his property from 1988 to 1990. Relying on an unreviewed (and implausible) state trial court finding that this restriction left Lucas' property valueless, this Court granted review to determine whether compensation must be paid in cases where the State prohibits all economic use of real estate. According to the Court, such an occasion never has arisen in any of our prior cases, and the Court imagines that it will arise "relatively rarely" or only in "extraordinary circumstances." Almost certainly, it did not happen in this case.
Nonetheless, the Court presses on to decide the issue, and as it does, it ignores its jurisdictional limits, remakes its traditional rules of review, and creates simultaneously a new categorical rule and an exception (neither of which is rooted in our prior case law, common law, or common sense). I protest not only the Court's decision, but each step taken to reach it. More fundamentally, I question the Court's wisdom in issuing sweeping new rules to decide such a narrow case. Surely, as JUSTICE KENNEDY demonstrates, the Court could have reached the result it wanted without inflicting this damage upon our Takings Clause jurisprudence.
My fear is that the Court's new policies will spread beyond the narrow confines of the present case. For that reason, I, like the Court, will give far greater attention to this case than its narrow scope suggests - not because I can intercept the Court's missile, or save the targeted mouse, but because I hope perhaps to limit the collateral damage.
This Court repeatedly has recognized the ability of government, in certain circumstances, to regulate property without compensation, no matter how adverse the financial effect on the owner may be. More than a century ago, the Court explicitly upheld the right of States to prohibit uses of property injurious to public health, safety, or welfare without paying compensation: "A prohibition simply upon the use of property for purposes that are declared, by valid legislation, to be injurious to the health, morals, or safety of the community, cannot, in any just sense, be deemed a taking or an appropriation of property." Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S., at 668-669. On this basis, the Court upheld an ordinance effectively prohibiting operation of a previously lawful brewery, although the "establishments will become of no value as property." Id., at 664; see also id., at 668.
Mugler was only the beginning in a long line of cases.
Ultimately even the Court cannot embrace the full implications of its per se rule: It eventually agrees that there cannot be a categorical rule for a taking based on economic value that wholly disregards the public need asserted. Instead, the Court decides that it will permit a State to regulate all economic value only if the State prohibits uses that would not be permitted under "background principles of nuisance and property law." 15 Ante, at 1031.
Until today, the Court explicitly had rejected the contention that the government's power to act without paying compensation turns on whether the prohibited activity is a common law nuisance. 16 The brewery closed in Mugler itself was not a common law nuisance, and the Court specifically stated that it was the role of the legislature to determine what measures would be appropriate for the protection of public health and safety. See 123 U.S., at 661 . In upholding the state action in Miller, the Court found it unnecessary to "weigh with nicety the question whether the infected cedars constitute a nuisance according to common law; or whether they may be so declared by statute." 276 U.S., at 280 . See also Goldblatt, 369 U.S., at 593 ; Hadacheck, 239 U.S., at 411 . Instead the Court has relied in the past, as the South Carolina court has done here, on legislative judgments of what constitutes a harm.
Even more perplexing, however, is the Court's reliance on common law principles of nuisance in its quest for a value-free takings jurisprudence. In determining what is a nuisance at common law, state courts make exactly the decision that the Court finds so troubling when made by the South Carolina General Assembly today: They determine whether the use is harmful. Common law public and private nuisance law is simply a determination whether a particular use causes harm. See Prosser, Private Action for Public Nuisance, 52 Va.L.Rev. 997, 997 (1966) ("Nuisance is a French word which means nothing more than harm"). There is nothing magical in the reasoning of judges long dead. They determined a harm in the same way as state judges and legislatures do today. If judges in the 18th and 19th centuries can distinguish a harm from a benefit, why not judges in the 20th century, and if judges can, why not legislators? There simply is no reason to believe that new interpretations of the hoary common law nuisance doctrine will be particularly "objective" or "value free." 19 Once one abandons the level of generality of sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas, ante, at 1031, one searches in vain, I think, for anything resembling a principle in the common law of nuisance.
Finally, the Court justifies its new rule that the legislature may not deprive a property owner of the only economically valuable use of his land, even if the legislature finds it to be a harmful use, because such action is not part of the `long recognized' "understandings of our citizens." Ante, at 1027. These "understandings" permit such regulation only if the use is a nuisance under the common law. Any other course is "inconsistent with the historical compact recorded in the Takings Clause." Ante, at 1028. It is not clear from the Court's opinion where our "historical compact" or "citizens' understanding" comes from, but it does not appear to be history.
The principle that the State should compensate individuals for property taken for public use was not widely established in America at the time of the Revolution.
"The colonists . . . inherited . . . a concept of property which permitted extensive regulation of the use of that property for the public benefit - regulation that could even go so far as to deny all productive use of the property to the owner if, as Coke himself stated, the regulation `extends to the public benefit . . . for this is for the public, and every one hath benefit by it.'"
F. Bosselman, D. Callies, & J. Banta, The Taking Issue 80-81 (1973), quoting The Case of the King's Prerogative in Saltpetre, 12 Co. Rep. 12-13 (1606) (hereinafter Bosselman). See also Treanor, The Origins and Original Significance of the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment, 94 Yale L. J. 694, 697, n. 9 (1985). 20
Even into the 19th century, state governments often felt free to take property for roads and other public projects without paying compensation to the owners. 21 See M. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860, pp. 63-64 (1977) (hereinafter Horwitz); Treanor, 94 Yale L.J., at 695. As one court declared in 1802, citizens "were bound to contribute as much of [land], as by the laws of the country, were deemed necessary for the public convenience." M'Clenachan v. Curwin, 3 Yeates 362, 373 (Pa. 1802). There was an obvious movement toward establishing the just compensation principle during the 19th century, but there continued to be a strong current in American legal thought that regarded compensation simply as a "bounty given . . . by the State" out of "kindness," and not out of justice. Horwitz 65, quoting Commonwealth v. Fisher, 1 Pen. & W. 462, 465 (Pa.1830). See also State v. Dawson, 3 Hill 100, 103 (S.C. 1836). 22
Although, prior to the adoption of the Bill of Rights, America was replete with land-use regulations describing which activities were considered noxious and forbidden, see Bender, The Takings Clause: Principles or Politics?, 34 Buffalo L.Rev. 735, 751 (1985); L. Friedman, A History of American Law 66-68 (1973), the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause originally did not extend to regulations of property, whatever the effect. See ante, at 1014. Most state courts agreed with this narrow interpretation of a taking. "Until the end of the nineteenth century . . ., jurists held that the constitution protected possession only, and not value." Siegel, Understanding the Nineteenth Century Contract Clause: The Role of the Property-Privilege Distinction and "Takings" Clause Jurisprudence, 60 S.Cal.L.Rev. 1, 76 (1986); Bosselman 106. Even indirect and consequential injuries to property resulting from regulations were excluded from the definition of a taking. See ibid.; Callender v. Marsh, 1 Pick. 418, 430 (Mass. 1823).
Even when courts began to consider that regulation in some situations could constitute a taking, they continued to uphold bans on particular uses without paying compensation, notwithstanding the economic impact, under the rationale that no one can obtain a vested right to injure or endanger the public. In the Coates cases, for example, the Supreme Court of New York found no taking in New York's ban on the interment of the dead within the city, although "no other use can be made of these lands.
In addition, state courts historically have been less likely to find that a government action constitutes a taking when the affected land is undeveloped. According to the South Carolina court, the power of the legislature to take unimproved land without providing compensation was sanctioned by "ancient rights and principles." Lindsay v. Commissioners, 2 S.C.L. 38, 57 (1796). "Except for Massachusetts, no colony appears to have paid compensation when it built a state-owned road across unimproved land. Legislatures provided compensation only for enclosed or improved land." Treanor, 94 Yale L. J., at 695 (footnotes omitted). This rule was followed by some States into the 1800's. See Horwitz 63-65.
With similar result, the common agrarian conception of property limited owners to "natural" uses of their land prior to and during much of the 18th century. See id., at 32. Thus, for example, the owner could build nothing on his land that would alter the natural flow of water. See id., at 44; see also, e.g., Merritt v. Parker, 1 Coxe 460, 463 (N.J. 1795). Some more recent state courts still follow this reasoning. See, e.g., Just v. Marinette County, 56 Wis.2d 7, 201 N.W.2d 761, 768 (1972).
Nor does history indicate any common law limit on the State's power to regulate harmful uses even to the point of destroying all economic value. Nothing in the discussions in Congress concerning the Takings Clause indicates that the Clause was limited by the common law nuisance doctrine. Common-law courts themselves rejected such an understanding. They regularly recognized that it is "for the legislature to interpose, and by positive enactment to prohibit a use of property which would be injurious to the public." Tewksbury, 11 Metc., at 57. Chief JUSTICE Shaw explained, in upholding a regulation prohibiting construction of wharves, the existence of a taking did not depend on "whether a certain erection in tidewater is a nuisance at common law or not." Alger, 7 Cush., at 104; see also State v. Paul, 5 R.I. 185, 193 (1858); Commonwealth v. Parks, 155 Mass. 531, 532, 30 N.E. 174 (1892) (Holmes, J.) ("[T]he legislature may change the common law as to nuisances, and may move the line either way, so as to make things nuisances which were not so, or to make things lawful which were nuisances").
In short, I find no clear and accepted "historical compact" or "understanding of our citizens" justifying the Court's new takings doctrine. Instead, the Court seems to treat history as a grab bag of principles, to be adopted where they support the Court's theory and ignored where they do not. If the Court decided that the early common law provides the background principles for interpreting the Takings Clause, then regulation, as opposed to physical confiscation, would not be compensable. If the Court decided that the law of a later period provides the background principles, then regulation might be compensable, but the Court would have to confront the fact that legislatures regularly determined which uses were prohibited, independent of the common law, and independent of whether the uses were lawful when the owner purchased. What makes the Court's analysis unworkable is its attempt to package the law of two incompatible eras and peddle it as historical fact.
The Court makes sweeping and, in my view, misguided and unsupported changes in our takings doctrine. While it limits these changes to the most narrow subset of government regulation - those that eliminate all economic value from land - these changes go far beyond what is necessary to secure petitioner Lucas' private benefit. One hopes they do not go beyond the narrow confines the Court assigns them to today.
[ Footnote 21 ] In 1796, the attorney general of South Carolina responded to property holders' demand for compensation when the State took their land to build a road by arguing that "there is not one instance on record, and certainly none within the memory of the oldest man now living, of any demand being made for compensation for the soil or freehold of the lands." Lindsay v. Commissioners, 2 S.C.L. 38, 49 (1796).
[ Footnote 22 ] Only the Constitutions of Vermont and Massachusetts required that compensation be paid when private property was taken for public use; and although eminent domain was mentioned in the Pennsylvania Constitution, its sole requirement was that property not be taken without the consent of the legislature. See Grant, The "Higher Law" Background of the Law of Eminent Domain, in 2 Selected Essays on Constitutional Law 912, 915-916 (1938). By 1868, five of the original States still had no just compensation clauses in their constitutions. Ibid.
[ Footnote 23 ] James Madison, author of the Takings Clause, apparently intended it to apply only to direct, physical takings of property by the Federal Government. See Treanor, The Origins and Original Significance of the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment, 94 Yale L. J. 694, 711 (1985). Professor Sax argues that, although "contemporaneous commentary upon the meaning of the compensation clause is in very short supply," 74 Yale L. J., at 58, the "few authorities that are available" indicate that the Clause was "designed to prevent arbitrary government action," not to protect economic value. Id., at 58-60.
[ Footnote 26 ] The Court asserts that all early American experience, prior to and after passage of the Bill of Rights, and any case law prior to 1897, are "entirely irrelevant" in determining what is "the historical compact recorded in the Takings Clause." Ante, at 1028, and, n. 15. Nor apparently are we to find this compact in the early federal takings cases, which clearly permitted prohibition of harmful uses despite the alleged loss of all value, whether or not the prohibition was a common law nuisance, and whether or not the prohibition occurred subsequent to the purchase. See supra, at 13-14, 18-19, and n. 16. I cannot imagine where the Court finds its "historical compact," if not in history.
JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
Today the Court restricts one judge-made rule and expands another. In my opinion, it errs on both counts. Proper application of the doctrine of judicial restraint would avoid the premature adjudication of an important constitutional question. Proper respect for our precedents would avoid an illogical expansion of the concept of "regulatory takings."
The Court's holding today effectively freezes the State's common law, denying the legislature much of its traditional power to revise the law governing the rights and uses of property. Until today, I had thought that we had long abandoned this approach to constitutional law. More than a century ago, we recognized that "the great office of statutes is to remedy defects in the common law as they are developed, and to adapt it to the changes of time and circumstances." Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113, 134 (1877). As Justice Marshall observed about a position similar to that adopted by the Court today:
"If accepted, that claim would represent a return to the era of Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), when common law rights were also found immune from revision by State or Federal Government. Such an approach would freeze the common law as it has been constructed by the courts, perhaps at its 19th-century state of development. It would allow no room for change in response to changes in circumstance. The Due Process Clause does not require such a result." PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 93 (1980) (concurring opinion).
Arresting the development of the common law is not only a departure from our prior decisions; it is also profoundly unwise. The human condition is one of constant learning and evolution - both moral and practical. Legislatures implement that new learning; in doing so, they must often revise the definition of property and the rights of property owners. Thus, when the Nation came to understand that slavery was morally wrong and mandated the emancipation of all slaves, it, in effect, redefined "property." On a lesser scale, our ongoing self-education produces similar changes in the rights of property owners: New appreciation of the significance of endangered species, see, e.g., Andrus v. Allard, 444 U.S. 51 (1979); the importance of wetlands, see, e.g., 16 U.S.C. 3801 et seq.; and the vulnerability of coastal lands, see, e.g., 16 U.S.C. 1451 et seq., shapes our evolving understandings of property rights.
Of course, some legislative redefinitions of property will effect a taking, and must be compensated - but it certainly cannot be the case that every movement away from common law does so. There is no reason, and less sense, in such an absolute rule. We live in a world in which changes in the economy and the environment occur with increasing frequency and importance. If it was wise a century ago to allow Government "`the largest legislative discretion'" to deal with "`the special exigencies of the moment,'" Mugler, 123 U.S., at 669 , it is imperative to do so today. The rule that should govern a decision in a case of this kind should focus on the future, not the past. 5
The Court's categorical approach rule will, I fear, greatly hamper the efforts of local officials and planners who must deal with increasingly complex problems in land use and environmental regulation. As this case - in which the claims of an individual property owner exceed $1 million - well demonstrates, these officials face both substantial uncertainty because of the ad hoc nature of takings law and unacceptable penalties if they guess incorrectly about that law