WASHINGTON, DC (April 10, 2017): SLF joined an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to hear a case brought by a group of property owners challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi law which essentially allows the Mississippi Highway Commission to transform private property into public property without justly compensating the owner.
In 1952, the Highway Commission invoked eminent domain and took an easement across private property which it used for a highway from 1953 to 2005. In 2005, the Highway Commission stopped using the easement land for a highway, relocating the highway after Hurricane Katrina destroyed a related bridge. Despite the easement terminating when the government stopped using the land as a highway, the Highway Commission “repurposed” the land and built a public park. The property owners sued seeking just compensation for the property unilaterally taken by the government to build the park.
In response the Highway Commission hid behind a state law passed more than a decade after the original 1952 easement, claiming that it could use the land subject to the easement however it wanted. The case went to a jury, which found that the Highway Commission’s use was beyond the scope of the easement and that the government owed the property owners just compensation. In a twist, the state court limited damages to $500, claiming that the property would forever remain encumbered by the 1952 easement. The property owners are now asking the Supreme Court hear its case and, among other things, find that the state court erred in allowing the legislature to redefine an owner’s property without just compensation.
Click here for Supreme Court amicus brief