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United States v. Causby

Legal Background, The Case At Hand, High Court Affirms, Black Dissents, Airspace Rights


United States


Causby, et ux.

Petitioner's Claim

That overflights by military airplanes above a private farm do not constitute an appropriation of property.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Walter J. Cummings, Jr.

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

William E. Comer

Justices for the Court

William O. Douglas (writing for the Court), Felix Frankfurter, Frank Murphy, Stanley Forman Reed, Wiley Blount Rutledge

Justices Dissenting

Hugo Lafayette Black, Harold Burton (Robert H. Jackson did not participate, Fred Moore Vinson not yet appointed)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

27 May 1946


The overflights by military planes were held to render the farm worthless and hence constitute a taking of property warranting compensation by the U.S. government.


The Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Causby expanded the protections afforded to property owners for government "taking" of their property. Whereas previous courts had interpreted the takings clause to consist of only the direct seizure of property, the Court in this decision expanded that interpretation to include taking by indirect means. Subsequent decisions would further modify this reinterpretation.


The Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Causby expanded the definition of a taking to include physical intrusion upon property by the government. In subsequent cases, the Court would limit that definition to the near total loss of property and not the mere reduction of property value. This was a definitive case.

Related Cases

  • United States v. Kansas City Insurance Co., 339 U.S. 799 (1950).
  • Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S. 40 (1960).
  • Griggs v. Allegheny County, 369 U.S. 84 (1962).
  • Chongris v. Corrigan, 409 U.S. 919 (1972).


West's Encyclopedia of American Law. St. Paul, MN: West Group, 1998.

Further Readings

  • Chandler, Ralph C. The Constitutional Law Dictionary. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1987.
  • Cushman, Robert Fairchild with Susan P. Koniak. Leading Constitutional Decisions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1992.
  • Menez, Joseph Francis. Summaries of Leading Cases of the Constitution. Savage, MD: Littlefield, Adams, 1990.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953