Bryan Wenter Land use lawyer Bryan Wenter recently weighed in on the Knick v. Township of Scott SCOTUS opinion.

SAN FRANCISCO—Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Knick v. Township of Scott, PA, 588 US (case number 17-647), a closely watched property rights case that was argued first in October of 2018 and again in January of 2019. Knick addressed the requirement, established in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 US 172 (1985), that property owners must seek just compensation under state law in state court before bringing a federal takings claim under 42 USC section 1983.

In a 5-4 opinion by chief justice John Roberts, the Knick court held that a government violates the takings clause the moment it takes private property without compensation, and the owner may assert a Fifth Amendment claim under section 1983 at that time, without first pursuing a state-law remedy. Moreover, the court overruled the state-litigation requirement established in Williamson County 34 years ago, describing that case as based on “poor reasoning” and a “(break) with the court’s longstanding position that a property owner has a constitutional claim to compensation at the time the government deprives him of his property” because “the court was simply confused” about how the takings clause works.

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Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.

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