U.S. Supreme Court hears Texas case that could change how states compensate landowners for their property

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4, 2022. Credit: Jason Garza for The Texas Tribune Sign up for The Brief , The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news. Richie DeVillier’s property north of Houston has been owned by his family for generations and had never flooded, but that all changed when the state revamped Interstate 10. His rice farm first flooded during Hurricane Harvey, and again during Tropical Storm Imelda. The property faced substantial damage to its crops and livestock, and now turns into a lake every time there’s significant weather, an annual recurrence near the East Texas coast. DeVillier sued Texas in 2020 and the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, where justices listened to arguments on whether he can seek federal relief. Under the U.S. Fifth Amendment, governments have the right to take private property, but they must pay just compensation for it. DeVillier, along with several other Chambers County property owners who filed the suit, argues that the flooding, which stemmed from actions taken by the state, constitutes a form of government taking private property. The state has argued it should not need to pay because it did not intend to take the property, said Dan Charest, the original attorney who represented the property owners in state court. Tuesday’s arguments focused on whether federal or state courts were the right venue for the case. But Charest said the Supreme Court’s ruling will likely broaden the Fifth Amendment’s interpretation and affect the nation as a whole. If the Supreme Court finds in favor of the landowners, he said, the ruling could redefine what it means for a state to take someone’s property and set a standard for how it […]

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