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Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council

(1992)

Supreme Court of the United States - 505 U.S. 1003

tl;dr:

When a government regulation renders a landowner's property economically useless, it has committed a taking.

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ICRAIssue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis for Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council

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Facts & HoldingLucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council case brief facts & holding

Facts:Lucas purchased two adjacent lots on Isle of Palms, both...

Holding:The state is within its power to try to preserve...

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Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Justice Scalia
Level 1
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David H. Lucas purchased two residential lots in South Carolina with the intention of building single-family homes, but the Beachfront Management Act prohibited him from constructing any permanent habitable structures on his parcels, rendering them "valueless." Lucas claimed 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. The lower court found that Lucas's properties had been taken by the Act and ordered the respondent to pay just compensation, but the Supreme Court of South Carolina reversed the decision, stating that when a regulation is designed to prevent serious public harm, no compensation is owed under the Takings Clause, regardless of the regulation's effect on the property's value. The dissenting justices believed that the Beachfront Management Act's impact on the value of Lucas's lots constituted a taking. The Supreme Court has determined that Lucas does not need to pursue the "special permit" procedure before his takings claim can be considered ripe. The Court has left the questions that were not addressed by the South Carolina Supreme Court for decision on remand. The Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon case recognized that the government's power to redefine the range of interests included in property ownership was limited by constitutional constraints. The Supreme Court has avoided a set formula and instead engaged in ad hoc factual inquiries. However, regulations that physically invade the property are compensable without case-specific inquiry into the public interest advanced in support of the restraint.

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Opinion (Concurrence), author: Justice Kennedy
Level 1
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The South Carolina Beachfront Management Act was amended to allow special permits that deviate from the Act's general limitations. The petitioner has not applied for a special permit, but may still do so, which could resolve their claim of a permanent taking. The court has not decided on the permanent taking claim, but the Supreme Court of South Carolina may consider it or require the petitioner to pursue an administrative alternative that was previously unavailable. The Takings Clause protects against both temporary and permanent deprivations, and state law cannot frustrate its enforcement. The court has established a framework for remand to consider whether a temporary taking has occurred in this case, taking into account the petitioner's compliance with administrative requirements.

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Dissenting opinion, author: Justice Blackmun
Level 1
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The legal case concerns the constitutionality of the Beachfront Management Act of 1988 in South Carolina, which prohibits building in front of the setback line to protect the beach/dune system. The Supreme Court has ruled that a takings claim cannot be evaluated until the administrative agency has made a final decision on how it will apply the regulations to the specific land in question. The plaintiff failed to pursue the administrative remedy provided by the Act, and no final agency decision had been made regarding the use of his property or the location of the baseline or setback line. Therefore, the plaintiff's takings claim is not justiciable. The Court upholds land-use regulations that prohibit certain uses of land for public welfare, even if it results in the destruction or adverse effect of real property interests. Compensation was historically only provided for enclosed or improved land, and the State has the power to regulate harmful uses of property, even if it destroys all economic value. The author disagrees with the Supreme Court's revised takings doctrine, arguing that it lacks clear historical evidence and is misguided and unsupported. The author dissents from the Court's ruling, which goes beyond the petitioner's desired outcome and alters the takings doctrine.

Dissenting opinion, author: Justice Stevens
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Justice Stevens dissented in a case where the Court restricted one judge-made rule and expanded another, arguing that the doctrine of judicial restraint should have been applied to avoid premature adjudication of an important constitutional question. The author disagrees with the Court's decision and argues that the Court's new categorical rule on property rights is flawed due to the flexible nature of property rights. The author suggests that courts may interpret "property" broadly and rarely find regulations to effect total takings in response to the rule. The author criticizes the Court's justification for the rule and disagrees with the Court's exception to the new rule, stating that the Court's new rule is not truly categorical and that the exception undermines the rule's basic holding.

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