Brief Fact Summary. A federal statute attempted to control the fragmenting of Native American land by stating that small parcels of land could not be devised or descend through intestacy, but would instead escheat to the tribe.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the government restricts a person’s ability to direct the descent of his land, the restriction amounts to an impermissible taking in violation of the just compensation clause.
Issue. When the government severely limits the right of an individual in the descent or devise of his property without offering compensation, will that be a taking in violation of Fifth Amendment?
Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
The amended Section: 207 is unconstitutional because it is a taking of property without just compensation.
The provision focuses on the income generated by the land, not on the value of the parcel itself. Even if the income generated may be de minimis, the value of the land may not fit that description.
The provision severely restricts the right of an individual to direct the descent of his property. It only allows a decedent to leave land to a current owner in the same parcel, which drastically reduces possible successors. Even if a successor is found, that party may not have someone to pass it on to, under the Act.
Though the provision allows tribes to establish their own code to govern the disposition of property, none have done so.
Dissent. The government has a strong interest in removing legal impediments to the most productive development of real estate. Minimizing the fractioning of Native American lands will lead to the productive development of their property, and the government has a strong interest in this, so Section: 207 is justified. The affected owners should have notice and an opportunity to adjust their affairs in order to protect against loss.
Discussion. Restricting the right to pass on fee simple property at death is a taking of property, and if there is no compensation, the restriction is unconstitutional.