No Competing Theory of Constitutional Interpretation Justifies Regulatory Takings Ideology


Compensation for excessive regulation of the use of property under the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment has gained wide acceptance. Introduced in 1922 in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, and gathering considerable momentum in 1978 with Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, regulatory takings constrains government regulation protecting the environment, public health, consumer safety, affordable housing, and other community interests. Upon close examination, however, the regulatory takings doctrine does not appear to be justified by any of the competing theories of constitutional interpretation: textualism, originalism, or evolutionary document. Rather, the doctrine seems to arise from a misunderstanding of the Just Compensation Clause as guaranteeing a laissez-faire political economy. The initial parts of this article rely for the most part on existing scholarship analyzing regulatory takings under the textualist and originalists theories of interpretation. The bulk of the article is devoted to an examination of regulatory takings under the evolutionary document theory, which has received less attention in the literature of takings. The argument that the regulatory takings doctrine in its entirety is unwarranted under an evolutionary document approach isĀ founded on the absence of precedent for granting the courts a significant role in the formulation of what is essentially economic policy, and profound conflicts between regulatory takings and core values of the Constitution, such as liberty, equality, and democracy. I also respond to claims that a broad reading of the Just Compensation Clause is necessary to balance the interests of property owners against society or that regulatory takings is a practical tool for property regulation. Finally, the article recommends an alternative system for government policy-making to control the use of property that relies almost exclusively on statutes and administrative regulations adopted by the political branches of government.

Andrew W. Schwartz is a PartnerĀ at the Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP in San Francisco, California.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • Andrew W. Schwartz, No Competing Theory of Constitutional Interpretation Justifies Regulatory Takings Ideology, vol. 34 Stanford Environmental Law Journal 247 (2015).
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