MURR et al. v. WISCONSIN et al.

Certiorari To The Court Of Appeals Of Wisconsin

No. 15-214. Argued March 20, 2017--Decided June 23, 2017

The St. Croix River, which forms part of the boundary between Wisconsin and Minnesota, is protected under federal, state, and local law. Petitioners own two adjacent lots—Lot E and Lot F—along the lower portion of the river in the town of Troy, Wisconsin. For the area where petitioners’ property is located, state and local regulations prevent the use or sale of adjacent lots under common ownership as separate building sites unless they have at least one acre of land suitable for development. A grandfather clause relaxes this restriction for substandard lots which were in separate ownership from adjacent lands on January 1, 1976, the regulation’s effective date.

Petitioners’ parents purchased Lots E and F separately in the 1960’s, and maintained them under separate ownership until transferring Lot F to petitioners in 1994 and Lot E to petitioners in 1995. Both lots are over one acre in size, but because of their topography they each have less than one acre suitable for development. The unification of the lots under common ownership therefore implicated the rules barring their separate sale or development. Petitioners became interested in selling Lot E as part of an improvement plan for the lots, and sought variances from the St. Croix County Board of Adjustment. The Board denied the request, and the state courts affirmed in relevant part. In particular, the State Court of Appeals found that the local ordinance effectively merged the lots, so petitioners could only sell or build on the single combined lot.

Petitioners filed suit, alleging that the regulations worked a regulatory taking that deprived them of all, or practically all, of the use of Lot E. The County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the State, explaining that petitioners had other options to enjoy and use their property, including eliminating the cabin and building a new residence on either lot or across both. The court also found that petitioners had not been deprived of all economic value of their property, because the decrease in market value of the unified lots was less than 10 percent. The State Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the takings analysis properly focused on Lots E and F together and that, using that framework, the merger regulations did not effect a taking.

Held: The State Court of Appeals was correct to analyze petitioners’ property as a single unit in assessing the effect of the challenged governmental action. Pp. 6–20.

(a) The Court’s Takings Clause jurisprudence informs the analysis of this issue. Pp. 6–11.

(1) Regulatory takings jurisprudence recognizes that if a “regulation goes too far it will be recognized as a taking.” Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U. S. 393, 415. This area of the law is characterized by “ad hoc, factual inquiries, designed to allow careful examination and weighing of all the relevant circumstances.” Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U. S. 302 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

The Court has, however, identified two guidelines relevant for determining when a government regulation constitutes a taking. First, “with certain qualifications . . . a regulation which ‘denies all economically beneficial or productive use of land’ will require compensation under the Takings Clause.” Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U. S. 606 (quoting Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U. S. 1003). Second, a taking may be found based on “a complex of factors,” including (1) the economic impact of the regulation on the claimant; (2) the extent to which the regulation has interfered with distinct investment-backed expectations; and (3) the character of the governmental action. Palazzolo, supra, at 617 (citing Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U. S. 104). Yet even the complete deprivation of use under Lucas will not require compensation if the challenged limitations “inhere . . . in the restrictions that background principles of the State’s law of property and nuisance already placed upon land ownership.” Lucas, 505 U. S., at 1029.

A central dynamic of the Court’s regulatory takings jurisprudence thus is its flexibility. This is a means to reconcile two competing objectives central to regulatory takings doctrine: the individual’s right to retain the interests and exercise the freedoms at the core of private property ownership, cf. id., at 1027, and the government’s power to “adjus[t] rights for the public good,” Andrus v. Allard, 444 U. S. 51. Pp. 6–9.

(2) This case presents a critical question in determining whether a regulatory taking has occurred: What is the proper unit of property against which to assess the effect of the challenged governmental action? The Court has not set forth specific guidance on how to identify the relevant parcel. However, it has declined to artificially limit the parcel to the portion of property targeted by the challenged regulation, and has cautioned against viewing property rights under the Takings Clause as coextensive with those under state law. Pp. 9–11.

(b) Courts must consider a number of factors in determining the proper denominator of the takings inquiry. Pp. 11–17.

(1) The inquiry is objective and should determine whether reasonable expectations about property ownership would lead a landowner to anticipate that his holdings would be treated as one parcel or as separate tracts. First, courts should give substantial weight to the property’s treatment, in particular how it is bounded or divided, under state and local law. Second, courts must look to the property’s physical characteristics, including the physical relationship of any distinguishable tracts, topography, and the surrounding human and ecological environment. Third, courts should assess the property’s value under the challenged regulation, with special attention to the effect of burdened land on the value of other holdings. Pp. 11–14.

(2) The formalistic rules for which the State of Wisconsin and petitioners advocate do not capture the central legal and factual principles informing reasonable expectations about property interests. Wisconsin would tie the definition of the parcel to state law, but it is also necessary to weigh whether the state enactments at issue accord with other indicia of reasonable expectations about property. Petitioners urge the Court to adopt a presumption that lot lines control, but lot lines are creatures of state law, which can be overridden by the State in the reasonable exercise of its power to regulate land. The merger provision here is such a legitimate exercise of state power, as reflected by its consistency with a long history of merger regulations and with the many merger provisions that exist nationwide today. Pp. 14–17.

(c) Under the appropriate multifactor standard, it follows that petitioners’ property should be evaluated as a single parcel consisting of Lots E and F together. First, as to the property’s treatment under state and local law, the valid merger of the lots under state law informs the reasonable expectation that the lots will be treated as a single property. Second, turning to the property’s physical characteristics, the lots are contiguous. Their terrain and shape make it reasonable to expect their range of potential uses might be limited; and petitioners could have anticipated regulation of the property due to its location along the river, which was regulated by federal, state, and local law long before they acquired the land. Third, Lot E brings prospective value to Lot F. The restriction on using the individual lots is mitigated by the benefits of using the property as an integrated whole, allowing increased privacy and recreational space, plus an optimal location for any improvements. This relationship is evident in the lots’ combined valuation. The Court of Appeals was thus correct to treat the contiguous properties as one parcel.

Considering petitioners’ property as a whole, the state court was correct to conclude that petitioners cannot establish a compensable taking. They have not suffered a taking under Lucas, as they have not been deprived of all economically beneficial use of their property. See 505 U. S., at 1019. Nor have they suffered a taking under the more general test of Penn Central, supra, at 124. Pp. 17–20.

2015 WI App 13, 359 Wis. 2d 675, 859 N. W. 2d 628, affirmed.

Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Roberts, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit

No. 16-327. Argued March 28, 2017--Decided June 23, 2017

Petitioner Jae Lee moved to the United States from South Korea with his parents when he was 13. In the 35 years he has spent in this country, he has never returned to South Korea, nor has he become a U. S. citizen, living instead as a lawful permanent resident. In 2008, federal officials received a tip from a confidential informant that Lee had sold the informant ecstasy and marijuana. After obtaining a warrant, the officials searched Lee’s house, where they found drugs, cash, and a loaded rifle. Lee admitted that the drugs were his, and a grand jury indicted him on one count of possessing ecstasy with intent to distribute. Lee retained counsel and entered into plea discussions with the Government. During the plea process, Lee repeatedly asked his attorney whether he would face deportation; his attorney assured him that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty. Based on that assurance, Lee accepted a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Lee had in fact pleaded guilty to an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U. S. C. 1101(a)(43)(B), so he was, contrary to his attorney’s advice, subject to mandatory deportation as a result of that plea. See 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). When Lee learned of this consequence, he filed a motion to vacate his conviction and sentence, arguing that his attorney had provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. At an evidentiary hearing, both Lee and his plea-stage counsel testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” to Lee in deciding whether to accept a plea, and Lee’s counsel acknowledged that although Lee’s defense to the charge was weak, if he had known Lee would be deported upon pleading guilty, he would have advised him to go to trial. A Magistrate Judge recommended that Lee’s plea be set aside and his conviction vacated. The District Court, however, denied relief, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Applying the two-part test for ineffective assistance claims from Strickland v. Washington, 466 U. S. 668, the Sixth Circuit concluded that, while the Government conceded that Lee’s counsel had performed deficiently, Lee could not show that he was prejudiced by his attorney’s erroneous advice.

Held: Lee has demonstrated that he was prejudiced by his counsel’s erroneous advice. Pp. 5–13.

(a) When a defendant claims that his counsel’s deficient performance deprived him of a trial by causing him to accept a plea, the defendant can show prejudice by demonstrating a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U. S. 52.

Lee contends that he can make this showing because he never would have accepted a guilty plea had he known the result would be deportation. The Government contends that Lee cannot show prejudice from accepting a plea where his only hope at trial was that something unexpected and unpredictable might occur that would lead to acquittal. Pp. 5–8.

(b) The Government makes two errors in urging the adoption of a per se rule that a defendant with no viable defense cannot show prejudice from the denial of his right to trial. First, it forgets that categorical rules are ill suited to an inquiry that demands a “case-by-case examination” of the “totality of the evidence.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U. S. 362 (internal quotation marks omitted); Strickland, 466 U. S., at 695. More fundamentally, it overlooks that the Hill v. Lockhart inquiry focuses on a defendant’s decisionmaking, which may not turn solely on the likelihood of conviction after trial.

The decision whether to plead guilty also involves assessing the respective consequences of a conviction after trial and by plea. See INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U. S. 289–323. When those consequences are, from the defendant’s perspective, similarly dire, even the smallest chance of success at trial may look attractive. For Lee, deportation after some time in prison was not meaningfully different from deportation after somewhat less time; he says he accordingly would have rejected any plea leading to deportation in favor of throwing a “Hail Mary” at trial. Pointing to Strickland, the Government urges that “[a] defendant has no entitlement to the luck of a lawless decisionmaker.” 466 U. S., at 695. That statement, however, was made in the context of discussing the presumption of reliability applied to judicial proceedings, which has no place where, as here, a defendant was deprived of a proceeding altogether. When the inquiry is focused on what an individual defendant would have done, the possibility of even a highly improbable result may be pertinent to the extent it would have affected the defendant’s decisionmaking. Pp. 8–10.

(c) Courts should not upset a plea solely because of post hoc assertions from a defendant about how he would have pleaded but for his attorney’s deficiencies. Rather, they should look to contemporaneous evidence to substantiate a defendant’s expressed preferences. In the unusual circumstances of this case, Lee has adequately demonstrated a reasonable probability that he would have rejected the plea had he known that it would lead to mandatory deportation: Both Lee and his attorney testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” to Lee; his responses during his plea colloquy confirmed the importance he placed on deportation; and he had strong connections to the United States, while he had no ties to South Korea.

The Government argues that Lee cannot “convince the court that a decision to reject the plea bargain would have been rational under the circumstances,” Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U. S. 356, since deportation would almost certainly result from a trial. Unlike the Government, this Court cannot say that it would be irrational for someone in Lee’s position to risk additional prison time in exchange for holding on to some chance of avoiding deportation. Pp. 10–13.

825 F. 3d 311, reversed and remanded.

Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Alito, J., joined except as to Part I. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Circuit

No. 16-399. Argued April 17, 2017--Decided June 23, 2017

Under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB or Board) has the power to review certain serious personnel actions against federal employees. If an employee asserts rights under the CSRA only, MSPB decisions are subject to judicial review exclusively in the Federal Circuit. 5 U. S. C. 7703(b)(1). If the employee invokes only federal antidiscrimination law, the proper forum for judicial review is federal district court. See Kloeckner v. Solis, 568 U. S. 41.

An employee who complains of a serious adverse employment action and attributes the action, in whole or in part, to bias based on race, gender, age, or disability brings a “mixed case.” When the MSPB dismisses a mixed case on the merits or on procedural grounds, review authority lies in district court, not the Federal Circuit. Id., at 50, 56. This case concerns the proper forum for judicial review when the MSPB dismisses such a case for lack of jurisdiction.

Anthony Perry received notice that he would be terminated from his employment at the U. S. Census Bureau for spotty attendance. Perry and the Bureau reached a settlement in which Perry agreed to a 30-day suspension and early retirement. The settlement also required Perry to dismiss discrimination claims he had filed separately with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After retiring, Perry appealed his suspension and retirement to the MSPB, alleging discrimination based on race, age, and disability, as well as retaliation by the Bureau for his prior discrimination complaints. The settlement, he maintained, did not stand in the way, because the Bureau had coerced him into signing it. But an MSPB administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that Perry had failed to prove that the settlement was coerced. Presuming Perry’s retirement to be voluntary, the ALJ dismissed his case. Because voluntary actions are not appealable to the MSPB, the ALJ observed, the Board lacked jurisdiction to entertain Perry’s claims. The MSPB affirmed, deeming Perry’s separation voluntary and therefore not subject to the Board’s jurisdiction. If dissatisfied with the MSPB’s ruling, the Board stated, Perry could seek judicial review in the Federal Circuit. Perry instead sought review in the D. C. Circuit, which, the parties later agreed, lacked jurisdiction. The D. C. Circuit held that the proper forum was the Federal Circuit and transferred the case there. Kloeckner did not control, the court concluded, because it addressed dismissals on procedural grounds, not jurisdictional grounds.

Held: The proper review forum when the MSPB dismisses a mixed case on jurisdictional grounds is district court. Pp. 9–17.

(a) The Government argues that employees must split their mixed claims, appealing MSPB nonappealability rulings to the Federal Circuit while repairing to the district court to adjudicate their discrimination claims. Perry counters that the district court alone can resolve his entire complaint. Perry advances the more sensible reading of the statutory prescriptions.

Kloeckner announced a clear rule: “[M]ixed cases shall be filed in district court.” 568 U. S., at 50; see id., at 56. The key to district court review is the employee’s “clai[m] that an agency action appealable to the MSPB violates an antidiscrimination statute listed in 7702(a)(1).” Id., at 56 (emphasis added). Such a nonfrivolous allegation of jurisdiction suffices to establish district court jurisdiction. EEOC regulations are in accord, and several Courts of Appeals have similarly described mixed-case appeals as those alleging an adverse action subject to MSPB jurisdiction taken, in whole or in part, because of unlawful discrimination. Perry, who “complain[ed] of a personnel action serious enough to appeal to the MSPB” and “allege[d] that the [personnel] action was based on discrimination,” brought a mixed case, and district court jurisdiction was therefore proper. Pp. 9–12.

(b) The Government’s proposed distinction—between MSPB merits and procedural decisions, on the one hand, and the Board’s jurisdictional rulings, on the other—has multiple infirmities. Had Congress wanted to bifurcate judicial review, sending merits and procedural decisions to district court and jurisdictional dismissals to the Federal Circuit, it could have said so. See Kloeckner, 568 U. S., at 52. The Government’s newly devised attempt to distinguish jurisdictional dismissals from procedural dismissals is a departure from its position in Kloeckner. Such a distinction, as both parties recognized in Kloeckner, would be perplexing and elusive. The distinction between jurisdiction and the merits is also not inevitably sharp, for the two inquiries may overlap. And because the MSPB may issue rulings on alternate or multiple grounds, some “jurisdictional,” others procedural or substantive, allocating judicial review authority based on a separate rule for jurisdictional rulings may prove unworkable in practice. Perry’s comprehension of the complex statutory text, in contrast, serves “[t]he CSRA’s objective of creating an integrated scheme of review[, which] would be seriously undermined” by “parallel litigation regarding the same agency action.” Elgin v. Department of Treasury, 567 U. S. 1. Pp. 12–17.

829 F. 3d 760, reversed and remanded.

Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Gorsuch, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined.