The Modest Impact of Palazzolo v. Rhode Island

57 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2012 Last revised: 17 Jul 2012

Gregory M. Stein

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: February 10, 2012

Abstract

Before 2001, state and federal courts did not agree on the extent to which a property owner’s regulatory takings claim should be weakened by the existence of legal restrictions on her use of the property at the time she acquired it. The Palazzolo Court addressed this doctrinal confusion but did not completely resolve it, offering six opinions that partially contradict each other. Some of this discord has persisted, with Palazzolo already cited in nearly five hundred judicial opinions, and not always consistently.

This Article examines the impact Palazzolo has had on state and lower federal courts. After reviewing the law before Palazzolo and the Supreme Court’s decision in that case, the Article offers suggestions as to how courts ought to interpret the contradictory opinions in Palazzolo. More specifically, cases arising at different points in the ripening process should be treated differently, and only a small subset of takings claims should benefit from Palazzolo’s relaxation of the notice rule.

Next the Article assesses the evidence, in an effort to determine whether courts interpreting Palazzolo have actually been following these suggestions. First, it examines the small number of claims in which an owner that probably would have lost before 2001 prevailed. It then compares these results with the far more numerous cases in which an owner that probably would have lost before 2001 still lost even after that decision.

The Article closes by offering a more generalized assessment of the effects of Palazzolo. It concludes that nearly all of the courts to cite Palazzolo have heeded its requirements, but only a few cases have turned out differently than they would have before 2001. The Court’s ripeness rules dictate that few landowners should benefit from the holding in Palazzolo, and only a small number actually do benefit. Lower courts understand Palazzolo, they have been applying it correctly, and they should continue to do what they have been doing.

Keywords: land use, regulatory takings, eminent domain, ripeness, Palazzolo

JEL Classification: K11, K32, K41

Suggested Citation

Stein, Gregory M., The Modest Impact of Palazzolo v. Rhode Island (February 10, 2012). 36 Vermont Law Review 675 (2012); University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 170. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2003072 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2003072

Gregory M. Stein (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
865-974-6812 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.utk.edu/people/gregory-stein/

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