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Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council

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Citation. 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S. Ct. 2886, 120 L. Ed. 2d 798, 34 ERC 1897 (1992)

Brief Fact Summary. Lucas (Petitioner) bought two residential lots on the Isle of Palms in Charleston County, South Carolina, upon which he intended to build single-family homes. In 1988, the South Carolina Legislature enacted the Beachfront Management Act (Act), barred Petitioner from erecting any permanent structures on the two lots.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the state seeks to sustain regulation that deprives a landowner from all economic use, the state may resist compensation only if the logically antecedent inquiry into the nature of the owner’s estate shows that the proscribed use interests were not part of his title to begin with.


Facts. Petitioner bought two residential lots for $975,000.00 on the Isle of Palms in Charleston County, South Carolina in 1986, upon which he intended to build single-family homes. Petitioner filed suit against the South Carolina Coastal Council, which had deemed Petitioner’s land as protected under the Act, claiming that his land had been taken without just compensation, but Petitioner did not challenge the facial validity of the Act. Petitioner claimed that the Act’s complete extinguishment of his property’s value entitled him to compensation regardless of whether the legislature had acted in furtherance of legitimate police power objectives. The trial court found for Petitioner, and determined that, at the time of Petitioner’s purchase of the land, the lots were both zoned for single-family residential construction and there were no use restrictions placed on the property by the State of South Carolina, the County of Charleston, or the Town of Isle of Palms. The trial court also
found that the Act decreed a permanent ban of construction on Petitioner’s lots and that the prohibition deprived Petitioner of any reasonable economic use of the lots, eliminated the unrestricted right of use, and rendered them valueless. The trial court found that the property had been “taken” by operation of the Act and that Respondent was ordered to pay “just compensation” in the amount of $1,232,387.50. The Supreme Court of South Carolina reversed the trial court and found that, because Petitioner did not challenge the facial validity of the Act as a reasonable use of the police power, no compensation could be owed. The Supreme Court of the United States reviewed the case.

Issue. Has Petitioner’s property been “taken” in a way that requires “just compensation”?

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