City of Milwaukee Post No. 2874 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States v. Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee
The Institute for Justice urges the Supreme Court to hear City of Milwaukee Post No. 2874 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States v. Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, which concerns the meaning of “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment.
In the state of Wisconsin, courts use the so-called “undivided fee” rule to determine compensation, meaning that condemned properties with more than one interested owner are treated as though the land only had one owner. Compensation is determined for the property as a whole and then, later, that amount is divided between owner and any leaseholders. The Veterans of Foreign Wars had a ninety-nine year lease in a building in downtown Milwaukee. A jury determined that the building overall was worth zero, due to dilapidation and demolition costs. That meant that the VFW also got zero, even though everyone concedes its lease was extremely valuable.
Also, because under the undivided-fee rule, a jury only evaluates the value of the property in total, the VFW was prohibited from introducing any evidence of the value of its lease.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a closely divided opinion, upheld the decision. The VFW then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case to decide if the “undivided fee rule” violates the Just Compensation requirement of the Constitution and also if the denial of the ability to present evidence violates its rights to Due Process.
The Institute for Justice filed an amicus in support of certiorari, written by George Mason Law Professor Ilya Somin, asking the Court to hear both of these issues, to set a nationwide legal standard for addressing Just Compensation issues and to uphold the right to present evidence in one’s own defense.