property law

Murr v. Wisconsin

Issues 

Should two legally-distinct, but adjacent, commonly-owned parcels be treated as a single parcel when determining whether a regulatory taking has occurred?

Court below: 

In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether two commonly-owned, contiguous parcels should be considered as a single parcel when determining whether a regulatory taking has occurred. The case arises after four residents of Wisconsin, the Murrs, decided to sell one of two contiguous parcels they had received from their parents. Wisconsin forbid the sale, citing a regulation under which two contiguous parcels of less with a combined area of less than one acre are considered a single parcel. The Murrs argue that the parcels are separate and distinct, as evident by the separate deed to each property. The State of Wisconsin argues that the parcels should be aggregated under the “parcel as a whole” analysis the Supreme Court devised. At stake is just compensation to landowners harmed by overreaching regulation, and the ability of the states and localities to regulate their domain and protect the environment.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

In a regulatory taking case, does the “parcel as a whole” concept as described in Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104, 130-31 (1978), establish a rule that two legally distinct, but commonly owned contiguous parcels, must be combined for takings analysis purposes?

Between 1994 and 1995, Joseph, Michael, Donna, and Peggy Murr (collectively, “the Murrs”), received from their parents two neighboring lots along the St. Croix River—Lots E and F. See Murr v. Wisconsin, No. 2013AP2828, at *2, 4 (Wis. Ct. App. Dec.

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Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States

Issues 

Does the United States have a reversionary interest in a railroad right-of-way created by the General Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 after the federal government granted the lands underlying the right-of-way to a private party?

The United States sought a declaratory judgment in federal district court to quiet title to an abandoned railroad right-of-way. Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust counterclaimed, seeking to quiet title to the right-of-way in its favor. The Tenth Circuit ruled that the Abandoned Railroad Right-of-Way Act and the National Trails System Improvement Act modified the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 to create a reversionary interest in the United States to abandoned railroad rights-of-way. The Trust argues that, under Supreme Court precedent, rights-of-way created by the 1875 Act should be considered easements, not reversionary interests. The United States claims that Congress preserved a reversionary interest in the United States under the 1875 Act, under which the right-of-way at issue was created. This case addresses a circuit split over whether the United States retains an implied reversionary interest in rights-of-way created under the 1875 Act. The Supreme Court will balance private property interests and the public’s interest in rehabilitating abandoned rail lines. More generally, the Court will address whether a grantor of real property impliedly retains an interest in land after it is sold.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

This case involves the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 ("1875 Act"), under which  thousands of miles of rights-of-way exist across the United States. In Great Northern Ry. Co. v. United States, 315 U.S. 262 (1942), this Court held that 1875 Act rights-of-way are easements and not limited fees with an implied reversionary interest. Based upon the 1875 Act and this Court's decisions, the Federal and Seventh Circuits have concluded that the United States did not retain an implied reversionary interest in 1875 Act rights-of-way after the underlying lands were patented into private ownership. In this case, the Tenth Circuit reached the opposite conclusion and acknowledged that its decision would continue a circuit split. The question presented is:

Did the United States retain an implied reversionary interest in 1875 Act rights-of way after the underlying lands were patented into private ownership?

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Facts

In 1908, pursuant to the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 (43 U.S.C. §§ 934-39) (“1875 Act”), the United States granted a right-of-way from Laramie, Wyoming to Colorado to the Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad Company. See Petition for Writ of Certiorari at App.

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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Overview

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act is better known as CERCLA. It is codified in 42 U.S.C. Chapter 103.

Open mines doctrine

In property law, a doctrine that permits a tenant to commit voluntary waste on a piece of land by depleting it of natural resources when mining was previously done on the land and mines were currently open at the time the tenant took possession of the land. In this situation, a tenant is allowed to continue mining on the land, but can only continue to mine in the open mines already in existence and cannot open any new mines on the land.

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Voluntary waste

Also referred to as affirmative waste. In property law, refers to overt and willful acts of destruction that lead to the drop in value of a piece of property by harming the property or depleting natural resources available on the property. As a general rule, tenants of property are not allowed to commit voluntary or affirmative waste to the property on which they reside, meaning they cannot deplete the land of its natural resources.

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Tenancy in Common

Overview

A tenancy in common (TIC) is one of three types of  concurrent estates (defined as an estate that has shared ownership, in which each owner owns a share of the property). The other two types are a joint tenancy and a tenancy by the entirety.  A TIC typically has no right of survivorship. This means that if A and B are tenants in common of Blackacre, and A dies, A's share does not to go B.

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