Summary of Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, U.S. Supreme Ct. (1984)
Parties: PL/Appellee- Midkiff – Owned Land HHA wanted to take
DF/Appellant – HHA- wants to enforce its taking of the land under the Hawaii Land Reform Act of 1967.
Cause of action/remedy sought: PL filed suit asking that the Act be declared unconstitutional and that enforcement of it be enjoined. District Court temporarily restrained State from proceeding against PL’s land. 3 months later ruled compulsory arbitration and compensation formula provisions were unconstitutional, but refused to enjoin DF from statutory designation and condemnation proceedings. 7 months later granted partial summary judgment to PL and held remaining acts constitutional under the public use clause. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed stating it did not satisfy the Public Use Clause because the lessee held the land throughout the condemnation of the land, and the government never held the land, so this was taking for a private use. DF HHA and other DF’s appeal.
Procedural History: The Court reversed judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion. Trial court ruled temporarily restrained HI from proceeding, an then refused to enjoin appellants, the later on granted partial SJ to appellants after it held a portion of the Act constitutional under the public use clause.
Facts: Inequity of land ownership existed in Hawaii, with the majority of its privately owned lands in the hands of very few owners. Hence homeowners leased the land under them. Legislature concluded this skewed the State’s residential fee simple market, kept the price artificially high and thus injuring the public tranquility and welfare. To combat this, legislature decided to compel large landowners to breakup their estates. In 1967, Hawaii legislature enacted the Land Reform Act. Act created a mechanism for condemning residential tracts and for transferring ownership in the tracts to existing lessees. Tenants on single family lots at least 5 acres can ask the HHA to condemn the property and when 25 tenants, or 1/2 the lots on the tract, which ever is less, file the appropriate applications, HHA holds a hearing to determine if acquisition will effectuate the public purposes of the act. If it does, compensation is arranged. In 1977 HHA held a public hearing concerning P’s land.
Brown: The statute provided for compensation after gov’t took private property for the purposes of getting more private land. What is the possible challenge? That this is a private taking, not a taking for public use as required for by the “takings clause.”
Brown: Here, Justice O’ Connor who is conservative has a much broader view of gov’t activity than many of the Supreme Court justices. Justice O’ Connor says the landowners have the burden of showing it is not for public use whereas the Legislature has concluded that it is for public use. The Legislature based its conclusion on a rational basis scrutiny. The Due Process that a legislature has to give is different- for minimal scrutiny, we have to show that there is a rational basis.
Issue(s): Under federal law, was the Act unconstitutional under the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment through the Fourteenth Amendment?
Holding: Yes, Act satisfied the requirements of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Looked to the Berman case, which used eminent domain power to redevelop slum areas and for the possible sale or lease of the condemned lands for private interest. Congress had the power to determine what was for the public good over the judiciary. Also equated police power with the eminent domain of the sovereign’s public use requirement.
Found that taking of the land must be for a public purpose, and not for the benefit of another private person, even with compensation.
Held that the Hawaii act was constitutional. Hawaii’s act to regulate the oligopoly is a classic exercise of the State’s police powers. It is a comprehensive and rational approach to identifying and correcting market failure.
Satisfied the public use doctrine. Land did not have to be put into actual public use. It is the taking’s purpose, and not its mechanics that were important. Here Act was to benefit the market overall.
Also felt judicial deference to the legislator was involved. If the legislature determines there are substantial reasons for the exercise of the taking power, courts must defer to the legislatures determination that the taking will serve a public use.
Held that the takings to correct concentrated property ownership was a legitimate public purpose.
Rule: Congress has the power to determine whether an instance of redevelopment of lands is proper under eminent domain. As long as the project is serving the public interest, the project is deemed satisfactory. The “public use” requirement is coterminous (coextensive in scope and duration) with the scope of the sovereign’s police powers.
Rational basis theory: ends must justify the means of the Act (here public use).
Did court avoid issues?: No.