Tags: Property, Takings, Eminent domain
The case of "Miller et al. v. Schoene" involved a Virginia statute that required the removal of red cedar trees to prevent the spread of cedar rust, a plant disease that destroys apple trees. The state entomologist ordered the plaintiffs to remove their ornamental red cedar trees, and the court affirmed the order without providing compensation for the value of the trees or the decrease in property value. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the statute under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and upheld the statute, recognizing the need to control the disease and protect apple trees. The statute provides a comprehensive scheme for the condemnation and destruction of infected red cedar trees, and there is a mode of appealing from the entomologist's order to the circuit court.
The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a Virginia statute that required the removal of red cedar trees to prevent the spread of cedar rust and protect apple orchards, which are a major economic driver in Virginia. The state has the power to choose to destroy one class of property to save another that is of greater value to the public, as established in previous cases. When the choice is controlled by reasonable social policy considerations, it does not involve any denial of due process. The injury to property in this case is no more serious than in previous cases.
The statute being discussed is not subject to the same issue as the ordinance in Eubank v. Richmond. The property owners in this case only request an investigation, and the state entomologist has discretion to decide whether or not to take action. The statute is not vague, as the state court has already deemed it applicable, and no penalty can be incurred until its applicability is judicially ascertained. The decision of the lower court is affirmed.
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