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First English Ev. Luth. Church of Glendale v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, Calif.

United States Supreme Court
482 U.S. 304 (1987)


First English Evangelical Lutheran Church (plaintiff) owns land outside of Los Angeles. The land lies along the banks of Mill Creek, a natural drainage channel for the nearby Angeles National Forest. The Church once used the land as a campground called Lutherglen. In 1977, a forest fire destroyed all vegetation in a large area near Lutherglen, creating a serious flood hazard. After a heavy rainstorm several months later, Mill Creek flooded, temporarily submerging Lutherglen and destroying all buildings on the property. In response, Los Angeles County (defendant) adopted an ordinance temporarily prohibiting any construction around Mill Creek, including all of Lutherglen. The Church brought suit against the County. Part of the Church’s complaint alleged that the ordinance denied the Church all use of Lutherglen, but no part of the Church’s complaint directly alleged that the ordinance effected a taking of the property. The County asked the trial court to strike as irrelevant the claim that the ordinance denied all use of the property, relying on the Supreme Court of California’s holding in Agins v. Tiburon, 598 P.2d 25 (Cal. 1979), that property owners are not entitled to just compensation for a regulatory taking until a court has found that there has been a taking. The County reasoned that under Agins, the Church would need to bring a claim that the ordinance effected a taking before the court could consider whether it deprived the Church of all uses of the property. The trial court agreed and struck the use deprivation claim. The Church appealed within the California courts, which upheld the trial court’s decision. The Church then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, claiming that Agins was a misinterpretation of the requirements of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Dissent (Stevens, J.)

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