ABA Journal

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether Texas landowners can sue the state under the takings clause for flooding caused by highway reconstruction even when a statute has not authorized lawsuits.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear four consolidated cases that argue the takings clause is “self-executing,” meaning the landowners can sue directly under the Fifth Amendment as applied to the states by 14th Amendment.

Texas had removed the cases to federal court and argued that, absent legislation authorizing suit, the only remedy available was under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, according to the cert petition. Because Texas is not a person that can be sued under Section 1983, the landowners have no remedy, the state argued.

The Institute for Justice represents Winnie, Texas, farmer Richie DeVillier in the case, according to a press release. The floods had “destroyed countless crops and killed several animals” on DeVillier’s farm, the press release says.

“The case presents a simple yet vital question of constitutional law: When the Constitution says government must pay ‘just compensation’ when it takes private property, does it mean what it says?” the press release says.

The case stems from a Texas highway project intended to make sure the eastbound lanes of Interstate Highway 10 can be used for evacuations in the event of flooding. The highway was elevated, two additional lanes were added, and a concrete barrier was built on the highway’s center. “Water that would otherwise have flowed south into the Gulf of Mexico stopped dead at Highway 10,” the cert petition says."

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