The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to pay just compensation when it takes private property for public use. Yet in the 1985 case ofWilliamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, the U.S. Supreme Court significantly undercut the protections from government abuse offered by that constitutional provision, holding that plaintiffs may not file a just compensation lawsuit in federal court until they have first exhausted their compensation claims in state court. The problem with that holding, as Justice Clarence Thomas explained in a dissent filed today, is that “plaintiffs alleging violations of other enumerated constitutional rights ordinarily may do so in federal court without first availing themselves of state court. But the same is not true for a Takings Clause plaintiff.” In Thomas’ view, the Supreme Court “should consider overturning Williamson County because there is ‘no reason why the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as much a part of the Bill of Rights as the First Amendment or Fourth Amendment, should be relegated to the status of a poor relation.'”
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