You Can Check Out But You Can Never Leave: The Supreme Court Revolutionizes Federal Takings Law by Banishing the San Remo Hotel and Many Other (But Not All) Takings Claimants to State Courts Under the Guise of the Full Faith and Credit Act
Program for Judicial Awareness Working Paper No. 05-013
105 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2005
Date Written: August 24, 2005
On June 20, 2005, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, holding that property owners with "takings" claims arising under the Fifth Amendment could not obtain federal court review after litigating in state court in compliance with the ripeness requirements of Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City. The case presented the specific question of whether federal takings claimants could invoke an exception to claim and issue preclusion doctrine under England v. Lousiana Medical Board Examiners based on the fact that Williamson County forced them to involuntarily litigate in state court. The majority decision in San Remo held that takings claimants had no right to a preclusion exception or to federal judicial review, approvingly concluding that the interaction of Williamson County and preclusion will permanently relegate many claims to state courts. In so doing, the majority ignored Williamson County's ripeness premises and its apparent intent to allow federal takings claims ripened by state law litigation in federal court.
This article reviews the San Remo decision, criticizing the majority's narrow interpretation of the England preclusion exception and its result in banishing takings claims to state courts. The article then explores the Williamson County ripeness requirement driving the majority result and condemns the majority decision for failing to explicitly address Williamson County's promise to allow ripe federal takings claims in federal court. The article considers whether San Remo's closed the federal courthouse door to takings claims seeking non-compensatory relief and concludes by urging the Court to overrule Williamson County's state litigation requirement.
Keywords: San Remo, Williamson County, federal takings, property rights, ripeness, Fifth Amendment, state litigation requirement, preclusion exception
JEL Classification: K11, K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation