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United States v. Causby

Legal Background

The case of United States v. Causby revolved around the controversial "takings clause" of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the taking of private property "for public use, without just compensation." For many years, the courts interpreted the term "public use" quite liberally, rarely finding that a taking was not for public use. For instance, courts allowed local governments to take property from landowners for use by privately-owned utility concerns, such as water companies. As long as a project involved some public benefit and did not merely enrich a private company or government agency, a taking of property could be justified.

In most cases, there is no room for disputing whether or not a piece of property has been taken by the government. However, in rare instances, the government does not in fact appropriate the property but acts in such a way as to so reduce the value of the property that the owner feels it has been taken way from him or her. Inevitably the government argues that it has not in fact taken the property and is not obligated to provide compensation. United States v. Causby is a paradigmatic case in this regard.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953United States v. Causby - Legal Background, The Case At Hand, High Court Affirms, Black Dissents, Airspace Rights