October 3, 2012
Petitioner, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (the “Commission”) sued Respondent, the United States, for a violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which compels the government to compensate parties when the government physically seizes property. Specifically, the Commission argues that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) permanently destroyed trees in a bottomland hardwood forest in Arkansas by intermittently flooding the forest for six years. The United States asserts that the actions of the Corps did not constitute a taking because the Corps did not oust the Commission of possession of the forest, and only a continuous invasion qualifies as a physical taking. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will determine whether a temporary invasion is a taking which will affect the meaning of the Takings Clause as it is used in future disputes concerning the destruction of property.
Petitioner Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, a constitutional entity of the State of Arkansas, sought just compensation from the United States under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment for physically taking its bottomland hardwood timber through six consecutive years of protested flooding during the sensitive growing season. The Court of Federal Claims awarded $5.7 million, finding that the Army Corps of Engineers' actions foreseeably destroyed and degraded more than 18 million board feet of timber, left habitat unable to regenerate, and preempted Petitioner's use and enjoyment.
The Federal Circuit, with its unique jurisdiction over takings claims, reversed the trial judgment on a single point of law. Contrary to this Court's precedent, a sharply divided 2-1 panel ruled that the United States did not inflict a taking because its actions were not permanent and the flooding eventually stopped. The Federal Circuit denied rehearing en banc in a fractured 7-4 vote.
The question presented is: Whether government actions that impose recurring flood invasions must continue permanently to take property within the meaning of the Takings Clause.
Under the Fifth Amendment, does temporary, government-induced flooding require compensation to the owner of the flooded property?