On March 5, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States granted a Petition for Writ of Certiori to review Knick v. Scott Township, a Pennsylvania case addressing the procedure a property owner whose land was taken by the government under the 5th Amendment must follow prior to filing in federal court, and determine whether it should reconsider its holding in Willamson County Regional Planning Com’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). In Williamson, the Supreme Court ruled that a property owner filing a claim against the government for taking property without just compensation cannot file a case in federal court until he or she has first gotten a “final decision” from the appropriate state or local regulatory agency and has “exhausted” all possible remedies in state court.
In Knick, Plaintiff Rose Mary Knick lives on 90 acres of land in rural Pennsylvania. In 2012, the town in which Knick’s property is located passed an ordinance requiring all owners of cemeteries to provide public access to those sites during daylight hours. The town alleged that this ordinance applied to a private cemetery it contended was on Knick’s land. Although Knick sued the township in state court, the court declined to rule because the town had withdrawn its notice of violation and agreed not to enforce the ordinance against her. Knick next appealed in federal court, but the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed her claims for failure to exhaust all of her remedies in state court. On appeal, the 3rd Circuit ruled in favor of the Township.