BL 23

7. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution allows government to take privately owned property if that property is being taken for a public purpose and if the private owner of the property is paid a fair price for the property taken. Questions have arisen under this provision about what a public purpose is and what a fair price is. One of the strangest questions that has arisen under this provision was about whether there was a taking at all. In Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, Lucas owned a lot at the beach and intended to build a house on that lot. Before he could build that house, the South Carolina passed a law that prohibited building houses at the beach within a certain number of feet from the water. This “setback” from the water meant that there was no room left on Mr. Lucas’s lot for him to build a house, so he sued the state for rendering his lot useless for his purpose and, therefore, taking his property. The case was eventually presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided that South Carolina had taken Mr. Lucas’s property and, therefore, had to pay him the value of the lot.

Do you think the outcome of the case was fair? Do you think this was the kind of situation that was contemplated when the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment was written?

3. Serrano was accused of murdering someone in South Florida, but he claimed to have been in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time of the murder. There was a surveillance video from a hotel in Atlanta that showed Serrano at the hotel several hours before the murder occurred and several hours after the murder occurred, but prosecutors contended that after Serrano first appeared in the video, he drove to the airport in Atlanta, flew to south Florida, committed the murder, flew back to Atlanta, and drove back to the hotel where he appeared in the video the second time.

Serrano’s lawyer, Mason, gave a television interview about the case in which he ridiculed the prosecutors’ theory about how Serrano was able to commit the murder, and he said during an interview that it was simply impossible to do what prosecutors said Serrano did in the time that was available, and if anyone could prove that what prosecutors said Serrano did in the time that was available to be possible, he said he would pay them a million dollars.

Several months later, a man named Kolodziej proved that Serrano could have done what prosecutors said he did in the time available and demanded that Mason pay him a million dollars. Mason refused, and Kolodziej sued Mason for the million dollars.

The case turned on the question of whether Mason’s statement was an offer that Kolodziej could accept. What do you think? Did Mason make a valid offer that Kolodziej could accept? Why, or why not? If there was a valid offer and a valid acceptance of the offer, what kind of contract was created?

Since he was given money for his lot, the verdict in the case Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council was appropriate. This is just my personal opinion. The requirement that the taking of private property must be for the use of the public is made explicit in the Just Compensation Clause of the Constitution. A person cannot be dispossessed of his property for any cause other than the use of the public, even if compensation is provided (Byrne, 2018). The question of whether a particular intended purpose is public use is one for the courts to decide. However, the Supreme Court has always insisted on giving significant weight to the legislative finding when making its decisions. Because the South Carolina Coastal Council’s decision to prohibit development was intended to protect the public from harm caused by recurrent floods and because the site was not to be used for any other public purpose, the council was obligated to compensate Lucas. Cont…

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