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Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff

United States Supreme Court
467 U.S. 229 (1984)


In the 1960s, the Hawaii Legislature discovered that, while the state and federal governments owned almost forty-nine percent of the state’s land, another forty-seven percent was owned by only seventy-two private landowners. Disturbed by this oligopoly of land ownership, and recognizing that the system inflated land prices and harmed the general public, the Hawaiian Legislature passed the Land Reform Act of 1967 and attempted to use its eminent domain powers to seize land from these seventy-two private landowner lessors and redistribute it more evenly among the general population of private lessees. The Legislature recognized that this was a taking of private property, and thus incorporated a provision to pay just compensation to the private lessors. In practice, funds to satisfy condemnation awards were supplied entirely by lessees. Rather than comply with this regulatory scheme and receive compensation, Midkiff and other landowners (plaintiffs) filed suit in federal district court on the grounds that the Act was unconstitutional. The district court denied their application for an injunction, but the court of appeals reversed on the grounds that the Act violated the “public use” requirement of the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause. The Hawaii Housing Authority (defendant) appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

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