Property Rights Focus of U.S. Supreme Court Argument & Panel Discussion

John Kramer
John Kramer · January 17, 2002

Washington, D.C.-The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, January 7, at 10 a.m. will hear oral argument in the most important property rights case before the Court this term: Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The Institute for Justice filed an amicus curiae brief in the case co-authored by Professor Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago Law School, one of the nation’s leading authorities on property law.

Institute for Justice President and General Counsel Chip Mellor will attend the argument and also participate in a panel discussion following the argument at 12:30 p.m. on Monday hosted by the Federal Bar Association. The event takes place at Taylor House, 717 Madison Place in Washington, D.C.

“This case will determine whether the government will be held accountable when it strategically and unjustifiably uses regulations to prevent people from building homes on property that is rightfully theirs,” said Mellor.

The case concerns the plight of owners of undeveloped land located in the Lake Tahoe Basin. For nearly 20 years, they have fought an incessant battle with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which through a series of strategically timed development moratoria has refused to allow the construction of any new single-family homes on ordinary building plots located in the basin. The case will determine whether temporary bans on land development constitute a taking of property requiring compensation under the Takings Clause of the Constitution.

“We hope that the Court will also view this case as an opportunity to put some much needed coherence into takings jurisprudence,” added Mellor. “A ruling in favor of the owners will strengthen the rights of property owners faced with planning authorities who through delay and other procedural maneuvers prevent individuals from enjoying the benefits of property ownership.”

The Institute with Professor Epstein has filed briefs in every major property rights case before the Supreme Court in the last decade.

The Institute for Justice is a non-partisan, libertarian public interest law firm. Through strategic litigation, training, communications and outreach, the Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society. It litigates to secure economic liberty, school choice, private property rights, freedom of speech and other vital individual liberties, and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government. In addition, it trains law students, lawyers and policy activists in the tactics of public interest litigation to advance individual rights. Through these activities the Institute challenges the ideology of the welfare state and illustrates and extends the benefits of freedom to those whose full enjoyment of liberty is denied by government. The Institute was founded in September 1991 by Chip Mellor and Clint Bolick.