Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


This Article analyzes the constitutionality of bills in Congress that would alter the two "ripeness" rules that the United States Supreme Court has developed for certain federal court lawsuits based on the Just Compensation Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Court's ripeness rules apply when a property owner sues a local land-use agency in federal court claiming that the agency has "taken" property by severely restricting the property's use. One of the Court's rules requires the owner to get a final decision from the local agency regarding permissible uses of the property. The other rule requires the owner to exhaust all available and adequate state procedures for obtaining just compensation. The bills in Congress would alter the "final decision" requirement and eliminate the "exhaustion" requirement. Opponents of the bills contend that the elimination of the exhaustion requirement, in particular, would violate Article I of the Constitution and exceed Congress's power. This Article concludes that the bills' elimination of the exhaustion requirement would not violate Article I but would exceed Congress's power on the current legislative record. This Article also concludes, however, that if the legislative record were properly supplemented, the bills' elimination of the exhaustion requirement would fall within Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.