ARKANSAS GAME & FISH COMMISSION v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
From 1993 through 2000, the United States Army Corps of Engineers imposed a temporary flood regime around the Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area. The flood regime caused flooding across the region encompassed by the wildlife management area, which restricted access to and destroyed or degraded thousands of timber trees.
The petitioners brought a case in federal court in an attempt to recover under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment for the loss of their property resulting from the United State’s flood regime. The federal court held that the flood regime constituted a Fifth Amendment taking and that the United States owed petitioners approximately $5.6 million as just compensation.
The government appealed, and the appellate court reversed the lower court’s judgment. The appellate court reasoned that the flood regime was a temporary government action, and that only a permanent flooding condition would constitute a taking under the Fifth Amendment. The petitioners appealed the appellate court’s decision.
Is the United States liable under the Fifth Amendment's takings clause for physically taking property through temporary flood invasions?
Legal provision: Fifth Amendment-Takings Clause
Yes, in some cases. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for an 8-0 majority, reversed the Federal Circuit and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court held that there is no temporary flooding exception to the Takings Clause. Prior precedent clearly establishes that a temporary interference with property can constitute a compensable taking. The length and severity of the interference is just one factor among many a court must consider when determining whether a specific action was a taking. Other factors include the intent behind the action and the degree to which the interference was a foreseeable result of an authorized government action. On remand, the Federal Circuit must decide whether the circumstances in this case constituted a Fifth Amendment taking.
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ARKANSAS GAME AND FISH COMMISSION, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the federal circuit
[December 4, 2012]
Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.
Periodically from 1993 until 2000, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) authorized flooding that extended into the peak growing season for timber on forest land owned and managed by petitioner, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (Commission). Cumulative in effect, the repeated flooding damaged or destroyed more than 18 million board feet of timber and disrupted the ordinary use and enjoyment of the Commission’s property. The Commission sought compensation from the United States pursuant to the Fifth Amendment’s instruction: “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The question presented is whether a taking may occur, within the meaning of the Takings Clause, when government-induced flood invasions, although repetitive, are temporary.
Ordinarily, this Court’s decisions confirm, if government action would qualify as a taking when permanently continued, temporary actions of the same character may also qualify as a taking. In the instant case, the parties and the courts below divided on the appropriate classification of temporary flooding. Reversing the judgment of the Court of Federal Claims, which awarded compensation to the Commission, the Federal Circuit held, 2 to 1, that compensation may be sought only when flooding is “a permanent or inevitably recurring condition, rather than an inherently temporary situation.” 637 F. 3d 1366, 1378 (2011). We disagree and conclude that recurrent floodings, even if of finite duration, are not categorically exempt from Takings Clause liability.I A
The Commission owns the Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area (Management Area or Area), which comprises 23,000 acres along both banks of the Black River in northeast Arkansas. The Management Area is forested with multiple hardwood timber species that support a variety of wildlife habitats. The Commission operates the Management Area as a wildlife and hunting preserve, and also uses it as a timber resource, conducting regular harvests of timber as part of its forest-management efforts. Three types of hardwood oak species—nuttall, overcup, and willow—account for 80 percent of the trees in the Management Area. The presence of these hardwood oaks is essential to the Area’s character as a habitat for migratory birds and as a venue for recreation and hunting.
The Clearwater Dam (Dam) is located 115 miles upstream from the Management Area. The Corps constructed the Dam in 1948, and shortly thereafter adopted a plan known as the Water Control Manual (Manual) to determine the rates at which water would be released from the Dam. The Manual sets seasonally varying release rates, but permits planned deviations from the prescribed rates for agricultural, recreational, and other purposes.
In 1993, the Corps approved a planned deviation in response to requests from farmers. From September to December 1993, the Corps released water from the Dam at a slower rate than usual, providing downstream farmers with a longer harvest time. As a result, more water than usual accumulated in Clearwater Lake behind the Dam. To reduce the accumulation, the Corps extended the period in which a high amount of water would be released. The Commission maintained this extension yielded downstream flooding in the Management Area, above historical norms, during the tree-growing season, which runs from April to October. If the Corps had released the water more rapidly in the fall of 1993, in accordance with the Manual and with past practice, there would have been short-term waves of flooding which would have receded quickly. The lower rate of release in the fall, however, extended the period of flooding well into the following spring and summer. While the deviation benefited farmers, it interfered with the Management Area’s tree-growing season.
The Corps adopted similar deviations each year from 1994 through 2000. The record indicates that the decision to deviate from the Manual was made independently in each year and that the amount of deviation varied over the span of years. Nevertheless, the result was an unbroken string of annual deviations from the Manual. Each deviation lowered the rate at which water was released during the fall, which necessitated extension of the release period into the following spring and summer. During this span of years the Corps proposed Manual revisions that would have made its temporary deviations part of the permanent water-release plan. On multiple occasions between 1993 and 2000, the Commission objected to the temporary deviations and opposed any permanent revision to the Manual, on the ground that the departures from the traditional water-release plan adversely impacted the Management Area. Ultimately, the Corps tested the effect of the deviations on the Management Area. It thereupon abandoned the proposal to permanently revise the Manual and, in 2001, ceased its temporary deviations.B
In 2005, the Commission filed the instant lawsuit against the United States, claiming that the temporary deviations from the Manual constituted a taking of property that entitled the Commission to compensation. The Commission maintained that the deviations caused sustained flooding of its land during the tree-growing season. The cumulative impact of this flooding over a six-year period between 1993 and 1999, the Commission alleged, resulted in the destruction of timber in the Management Area and a substantial change in the character of the terrain, which necessitated costly reclamation measures. Following a trial, the Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of the Commission and issued an opinion and order containing detailed findings of fact. 87 Fed. Cl. 594 (2009).
The Court of Federal Claims found that the forests in the Management Area were healthy and flourishing before the flooding that occurred in the 1990’s, and that the forests had been sustainably managed for decades under the water-release plan contained in the Manual. Id., at 631. It further found that the Commission repeatedly objected to the deviations from the Manual and alerted the Corps to the detrimental effect the longer period of flooding would have on the hardwood timber in the Management Area. Id., at 604.
As found by the Court of Federal Claims, the flooding caused by the deviations contrasted markedly with historical flooding patterns. Between 1949 and 1992, the river level near the Management Area reached six feet an average of 64.7 days per year during the growing season; the number of such days had been even lower on average before the Clearwater Dam was built. Between 1993 and 1999, however, the river reached the same level an average of 91.14 days per year, an increase of more than 40 percent over the historic average. Although the Management Area lies in a floodplain, in no previously recorded time span did comparable flooding patterns occur. Id., at 607–608. Evidence at trial indicated that half of the nuttall oaks in the Management Area were saturated with water when the river level was at six feet, id., at 608; the evidence further indicated that the saturation of the soil around the trees’ root systems could persist for weeks even after the flooding had receded. Id., at 627.
The court concluded that the Corps’ deviations caused six consecutive years of substantially increased flooding, which constituted an appropriation of the Commission’s property, albeit a temporary rather than a permanent one. Important to this conclusion, the court emphasized the deviations’ cumulative effect. The trees were subject to prolonged periods of flooding year after year, which reduced the oxygen level in the soil and considerably weakened the trees’ root systems. The repeated annual flooding for six years altered the character of the property to a much greater extent than would have been shown if the harm caused by one year of flooding were simply multiplied by six. When a moderate drought occurred in 1999 and 2000, the trees did not have the root systems necessary to sustain themselves; the result, in the court’s words, was “catastrophic mortality.” Id., at 632. More than 18 million board feet of timber were destroyed or degraded. Id., at 638–640.
This damage altered the character of the Management Area. The destruction of the trees led to the invasion of undesirable plant species, making natural regeneration of the forests improbable in the absence of reclamation efforts. Id., at 643. To determine the measure of just compensation, the Court of Federal Claims calculated the value of the lost timber and the projected cost of the reclamation and awarded the Commission $5.7 million.
The Federal Circuit reversed. It acknowledged that in general, temporary government action may give rise to a takings claim if permanent action of the same character would constitute a taking. But it held that “cases involving flooding and [flowage] easements are different.” 637 F. 3d, at 1374. Government-induced flooding can give rise to a taking claim, the Federal Circuit concluded, only if the flooding is “permanent or inevitably recurring.” Id., at 1378. The Court of Appeals understood this conclusion to be dictated by this Court’s decisions in Sanguinetti v. United States, 264 U. S. 146, 150 (1924) , and United States v. Cress, 243 U. S. 316, 328 (1917) . We granted certiorari to resolve the question whether government actions that cause repeated floodings must be permanent or inevitably recurring to constitute a taking of property. 566 U. S. ___ (2012).II
The Takings Clause is “designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.” Armstrong v. United States, 364 U. S. 40, 49 (1960) . See also First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glendale v. County of Los Angeles, 482 U. S. 304 –319 (1987); Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U. S. 104 –125 (1978). And “[w]hen the government physically takes possession of an interest in property for some public purpose, it has a categorical duty to compensate the former owner.” Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U. S. 302, 322 (2002) (citing United States v. Pewee Coal Co., 341 U. S. 114, 115 (1951) ). These guides are fundamental in our Takings Clause jurisprudence. We have recognized, however, that no magic formula enables a court to judge, in every case, whether a given government interference with property is a taking. In view of the nearly infinite variety of ways in which government actions or regulations can affect property interests, the Court has recognized few invariable rules in this area.
True, we have drawn some bright lines, notably, the rule that a permanent physical occupation of property authorized by government is a taking. Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp., 458 U. S. 419, 426 (1982) . So, too, is a regulation that permanently requires a property owner to sacrifice all economically beneficial uses of his or her land. Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U. S. 1003, 1019 (1992) . But aside from the cases attended by rules of this order, most takings claims turn on situation-specific factual inquiries. See Penn Central, 438 U. S., at 124. With this in mind, we turn to the question presented here—whether temporary flooding can ever give rise to a takings claim.
The Court first ruled that government-induced flooding can constitute a taking in Pumpelly v. Green Bay Co., 13 Wall. 166 (1872). The Wisconsin Legislature had authorized the defendant to build a dam which led to the creation of a lake, permanently submerging the plaintiff’s land. The defendant argued that the land had not been taken because the government did not exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire title to the affected property. Moreover, the defendant urged, the damage was merely “a consequential result” of the dam’s construction near the plaintiff’s property. Id., at 177. Rejecting that crabbed reading of the Takings Clause, the Court held that “where real estate is actually invaded by superinduced additions of water, earth, sand, or other material . . . so as to effectually destroy or impair its usefulness, it is a taking, within the meaning of the Constitution.” Id., at 181.
Following Pumpelly, the Court recognized that seasonally recurring flooding could constitute a taking. United States v. Cress, 243 U. S. 316 (1917) , involved the Government’s construction of a lock and dam, which subjected the plaintiff’s land to “intermittent but inevitably recurring overflows.” Id., at 328. The Court held that the regularly recurring flooding gave rise to a takings claim no less valid than the claim of an owner whose land was continuously kept under water. Id., at 328–329.
Furthermore, our decisions confirm that takings temporary in duration can be compensable. This principle was solidly established in the World War II era, when “[c]ondemnation for indefinite periods of occupancy [took hold as] a practical response to the uncertainties of the Government’s needs in wartime.” United States v. Westinghouse Elec. & Mfg. Co., 339 U. S. 261, 267 (1950) . In support of the war effort, the Government took temporary possession of many properties. These exercises of government authority, the Court recognized, qualified as compensable temporary takings. See Pewee Coal Co., 341 U. S. 114 ; Kimball Laundry Co. v. United States, 338 U. S. 1 (1949) ; United States v. General Motors Corp., 323 U. S. 373 (1945) . Notably in relation to the question before us, the takings claims approved in these cases were not confined to instances in which the Government took outright physical possession of the property involved. A temporary takings claim could be maintained as well when government action occurring outside the property gave rise to “a direct and immediate interference with the enjoyment and use of the land.” United States v. Causby, 328 U. S. 256, 266 (1946) (frequent overflights from a nearby airport resulted in a taking, for the flights deprived the property owner of the customary use of his property as a chicken farm); cf. United States v. Dickinson, 331 U. S. 745, 751 (1947) (flooding of claimant’s land was a taking even though claimant successfully “reclaimed most of his land which the Government originally took by flooding”).
Ever since, we have rejected the argument that government action must be permanent to qualify as a taking. Once the government’s actions have worked a taking of property, “no subsequent action by the government can relieve it of the duty to provide compensation for the period during which the taking was effective.” First English, 482 U. S., at 321. See also Tahoe-Sierra, 535 U. S., at 337 (“[W]e do not hold that the temporary nature of a land-use restriction precludes finding that it effects a taking; we simply recognize that it should not be given exclusive significance one way or the other.”).
Because government-induced flooding can constitute a taking of property, and because a taking need not be permanent to be compensable, our precedent indicates that government-induced flooding of limited duration may be compensable. No decision of this Court authorizes a blanket temporary-flooding exception to our Takings Clause jurisprudence, and we decline to create such an exception in this case.III
In advocating a temporary-flooding exception, the Government relies primarily on Sanguinetti, 264 U. S. 146 . That case involved a canal constructed by the Government connecting a slough and a river. The claimant’s land was positioned between the slough and the river above the canal. The year after the canal’s construction, a “flood of unprecedented severity” caused the canal to overflow onto the claimant’s land; less severe flooding and overflow occurred in later years. Id., at 147.
The Court held there was no taking on these facts. This outcome rested on settled principles of foreseeability and causation. The Court emphasized that the Government did not intend to flood the land or have “any reason to expect that such [a] result would follow” from construction of the canal. Id., at 148. Moreover, the property was subject to seasonal flooding prior to the construction of the canal, and the landowner failed to show a causal connection between the canal and the increased flooding, which may well have been occasioned by changes in weather patterns. See id., at 149 (characterizing the causal relationship asserted by the landowner as “purely conjectural”). These case-specific features were more than sufficient to dispose of the property owner’s claim.
In the course of the Sanguinetti decision, however, the Court summarized prior flooding cases as standing for the proposition that “in order to create an enforceable liability against the Government, it is, at least, necessary that the overflow be the direct result of the structure, and constitute an actual, permanent invasion of the land.” Ibid. The Government would have us extract from this statement a definitive rule that there can be no temporary taking caused by floods.
We do not read so much into the word “permanent” as it appears in a nondispositive sentence in Sanguinetti. That case, we note, was decided in 1924, well before the World War II-era cases and First English, in which the Court first homed in on the matter of compensation for temporary takings. That time factor, we think, renders understandable the Court’s passing reference to permanence. If the Court indeed meant to express a general limitation on the Takings Clause, that limitation has been superseded by subsequent developments in our jurisprudence.
There is certainly no suggestion in Sanguinetti that flooding cases should be set apart from the mine run of takings claims. The sentence in question was composed to summarize the flooding cases the Court had encountered up to that point, which had unexceptionally involved permanent, rather than temporary, government-induced flooding. 264 U. S., at 149. See Cress, 243 U. S., at 328; United States v. Lynah, 188 U. S. 445, 469 (1903) . But as just explained, no distinction between permanent and temporary flooding was material to the result in Sanguinetti. We resist reading a single sentence unnecessary to the decision as having done so much work. In this regard, we recall Chief Justice Marshall’s sage observation that “general expressions, in every opinion, are to be taken in connection with the case in which those expressions are used. If they go beyond the case, they may be respected, but ought not to control the judgment in a subsequent suit when the very point is presented for decision.” Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 399 (1821).
The Government also asserts that the Court in Loretto interpreted Sanguinetti the same way the Federal Circuit did in this case. That assertion bears careful inspection. A section of the Court’s opinion in Loretto discussing permanent physical occupations parenthetically quotes Sanguinetti’s statement that flooding is a taking if it constitutes an “actual, permanent invasion of the land.” 458 U. S., at 428. But the first rule of case law as well as statutory interpretation is: Read on. Later in the Loretto opinion, the Court clarified that it scarcely intended to adopt a “flooding-is-different” rule by the obscure means of quoting parenthetically a fragment from a 1924 opinion. The Court distinguished permanent physical occupations from temporary invasions of property, expressly including flooding cases, and said that “temporary limitations are subject to a more complex balancing process to determine whether they are a taking.” Id., at 435, n. 12.
There is thus no solid grounding in precedent for setting flooding apart from all other government intrusions on property. And the Government has presented no other persuasive reason to do so. Its primary argument is of the in for a penny, in for a pound genre: reversing the decision below, the Government worries, risks disruption of public works dedicated to flood control. “[E]very passing flood attributable to the government’s operation of a flood-control project, no matter how brief,” the Government hypothesizes, might qualify as a compensable taking. Brief for United States 29. To reject a categorical bar to temporary-flooding takings claims, however, is scarcely to credit all, or even many, such claims. It is of course incumbent on courts to weigh carefully the relevant factors and circumstances in each case, as instructed by our decisions. See infra, at 14.
The slippery slope argument, we note, is hardly novel or unique to flooding cases. Time and again in Takings Clause cases, the Court has heard the prophecy that recognizing a just compensation claim would unduly impede the government’s ability to act in the public interest. Causby, 328 U. S., at 275 (Black, J., dissenting); Loretto, 458 U. S., at 455 (Blackmun, J., dissenting). We have rejected this argument when deployed to urge blanket exemptions from the Fifth Amendment’s instruction. While we recognize the importance of the public interests the Government advances in this case, we do not see them as categorically different from the interests at stake in myriad other Takings Clause cases. The sky did not fall after Causby, and today’s modest decision augurs no deluge of takings liability.
Tellingly, the Government qualifies its defense of the Federal Circuit’s exclusion of flood invasions from temporary takings analysis. It sensibly acknowledges that a taking might be found where there is a “sufficiently prolonged series of nominally temporary but substantively identical deviations.” Brief for United States 21. This concession is in some tension with the categorical rule adopted by the Court of Appeals. Indeed, once it is recognized that at least some repeated nonpermanent flooding can amount to a taking of property, the question presented to us has been essentially answered. Flooding cases, like other takings cases, should be assessed with reference to the “particular circumstances of each case,” and not by resorting to blanket exclusionary rules. United States v. Central Eureka Mining Co., 357 U. S. 155, 168 (1958) (citing Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U. S. 393, 416 (1922) ). See Penn Central, 438 U. S., at 124.
At oral argument, the Government tendered a different justification for the Federal Circuit’s judgment, one not aired in the courts below, and barely hinted at in the brief the Government filed in this Court: Whether the damage is permanent or temporary, damage to downstream property, however foreseeable, is collateral or incidental; it is not aimed at any particular landowner and therefore does not qualify as an occupation compensable under the Takings Clause. Tr. of Oral Arg. 30–39; Brief for United States 26–27. “[M]indful that we are a court of review, not of first view,” Cutter v. Wilkinson, 544 U. S. 709, 718, n. 7 (2005) , we express no opinion on the proposed upstream/downstream distinction and confine our opinion to the issue explored and decided by the Federal Circuit.
For the same reason, we are not equipped to address the bearing, if any, of Arkansas water-rights law on this case. 1 The determination whether a taking has occurred includes consideration of the property owner’s distinct investment-backed expectations, a matter often informed by the law in force in the State in which the property is located. Lucas, 505 U. S., at 1027–1029; Phillips v. Washington Legal Foundation, 524 U. S. 156, 164 (1998) . But Arkansas law was not examined by the Federal Circuit, and therefore is not properly pursued in this Court. Whether arguments for an upstream/downstream distinction and on the relevance of Arkansas law have been preserved and, if so, whether they have merit, are questions appropriately addressed to the Court of Appeals on remand. See Glover v. United States, 531 U. S. 198, 205 (2001) .IV
We rule today, simply and only, that government-induced flooding temporary in duration gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection. When regulation or temporary physical invasion by government interferes with private property, our decisions recognize, time is indeed a factor in determining the existence vel non of a compensable taking. See Loretto, 458 U. S., at 435, n. 12 (temporary physical invasions should be assessed by case-specific factual inquiry); Tahoe-Sierra, 535 U. S., at 342 (duration of regulatory restriction is a factor for court to consider); National Bd. of YMCA v. United States, 395 U. S. 85, 93 (1969) (“temporary, unplanned occupation” of building by troops under exigent circumstances is not a taking).
Also relevant to the takings inquiry is the degree to which the invasion is intended or is the foreseeable result of authorized government action. See supra, at 9; John Horstmann Co. v. United States, 257 U. S. 138, 146 (1921) (no takings liability when damage caused by government action could not have been foreseen). See also Ridge Line, Inc. v. United States, 346 F. 3d 1346, 1355–1356 (CA Fed. 2003); In re Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific R. Co., 799 F. 2d 317, 325–326 (CA7 1986). So, too, are the character of the land at issue and the owner’s “reasonable investment-backed expectations” regarding the land’s use. Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U. S. 606, 618 (2001) . For example, the Management Area lies in a floodplain below a dam, and had experienced flooding in the past. But the trial court found the Area had not been exposed to flooding comparable to the 1990’s accumulations in any other time span either prior to or after the construction of the Dam. See supra, at 4–5. Severity of the interference figures in the calculus as well. See Penn Central, 438 U. S., at 130–131; Portsmouth Harbor Land & Hotel Co. v. United States, 260 U. S. 327 –330 (1922) (“[W]hile a single act may not be enough, a continuance of them in sufficient number and for a sufficient time may prove [a taking]. Every successive trespass adds to the force of the evidence.”).
The Court of Federal Claims found that the flooding the Commission assails was foreseeable. In this regard, the court noted the Commission’s repeated complaints to the Corps about the destructive impact of the successive planned deviations from the Water Control Manual. Further, the court determined that the interference with the Commission’s property was severe: The Commission had been deprived of the customary use of the Management Area as a forest and wildlife preserve, as the bottomland hardwood forest turned, over time, into a “headwater swamp.” 87 Fed. Cl., at 610 (internal quotation marks omitted); see supra, at 5. 2
The Government, however, challenged several of the trial court’s factfindings, including those relating to causation, foreseeability, substantiality, and the amount of damages. Because the Federal Circuit rested its decision entirely on the temporary duration of the flooding, it did not address those challenges. As earlier noted, see supra, at 13, preserved issues remain open for consideration on remand.* * *
For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
1 Arkansas water law is barely discussed in the parties’ briefs, see Brief for United States 43, but has been urged at length in a brief amicus curiae filed by Professors of Law Teaching in the Property Law and Water Rights Fields.
2 The Commission is endeavoring to reclaim the land through a restoration program. The prospect of reclamation, however, does not disqualify a landowner from receipt of just compensation for a taking. United States v. Dickinson, 331 U. S. 745, 751 (1947) .
ORAL ARGUMENT OF JAMES F. GOODHART ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We'll hear argument next this morning in Case No. 11-597, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. The United States.
James F Goodhart: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
The issue is whether temporary flooding can ever constitute a taking under the Fifth Amendment.
The Federal Circuit said, no, never, ruling that the permanent consequences of the Government's actions were not relevant solely because its actions were not permanent.
Respectfully, Your Honors, that cannot be the rule.
There are at least two reasons why.
First, the United States must provide just compensation when its direct physical invasion substantially intrudes upon a landowner's protected property interest, regardless of the particular mode or duration of that invasion.
And, second, the Federal Circuit's decision conflicts with fundamental guarantees that the Takings Clause is intended to preserve, and, therefore, is manifestly unjust.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What about this Court's precedent in, what is it, the Sanguinetti case, where the Court said that for there to be government responsibility it is at least necessary that the overflow constitute a permanent invasion of the land amounting to an appropriation, not merely an injury, to property?
We would have to withdraw or modify that statement, would we not, if you -- if your -- your argument prevails?
James F Goodhart: Justice Ginsburg, we would say that you would not have to overrule Sanguinetti because the language there, “ permanent flooding invasion ”, was -- was not how the case turned on the result.
The Court there did make an inaccurate summary of the early flood-taking cases -- Pumpelly, Lynah, and Kress.
None of those cases said that flooding had to be permanent.
The facts in those cases did have a permanent condition of flooding, but that was not made a requirement.
And none of those cases said that you could not have temporary flood invasions.
But, Your Honor--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Was Sanguinetti -- had we had any temporary takings cases before Sanguinetti?
James F Goodhart: --Justice Scalia--
Justice Antonin Scalia: In other words, was Sanguinetti expressing a special rule for flooding, or was it -- was it simply saying there can't be a temporary taking?
If the latter, that dictum if it's dictum or a holding if it was a holding has already been overruled by our later temporary takings cases.
James F Goodhart: --Justice Scalia, there -- you're correct.
There was no temporary takings prior to Sanguinetti.
The Court there didn't have occasion to address temporary flooding, whether that could constitute a taking.
And all of the cases after Sanguinetti that have actually addressed whether a direct temporary invasion will -- that substantially intrudes upon property interests have held that, yes, you can have a temporary--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Which ones?
Because I counted eleven cases which either say, state, some seem to hold or support the proposition that when it's temporary with a flood it's a trespass, and where it's permanent it's a taking.
I mean, I have eleven.
And so I've got from my law clerk.
And then I tried to see, well, what are the ones that say the opposite?
And so far we've come up with zero.
You could argue that there were three cases during the war which might be read that way, though they don't quite mention it.
So which of the cases that you -- rather than list my eleven, I'm more interested in what you think, and so I'd like to know which are the ones you think support -- with something like a flood, which it's not -- you're not physically taking hold of the whole thing.
You're sending something in that comes back.
Which of the ones support you that temporary is not a trespass, temporary is a taking?
James F Goodhart: --Justice Breyer, in the Dickinson case in 1947 where the Court found a taking from flooding, Mr. Dickinson reclaimed his property, effectively reclaimed most of the property that had flooded, effectively ending the flood invasion.
And the Court there said the taking was a taking when that occurred, regardless of whether the landowner does reclamation.
Of course, this Court in the war seizure cases, in General Motors, Petty Motor, Pewee Coal, Kimball Laundry, in all of those cases the Court has found--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Dickinson -- I got written down Dickinson.
James F Goodhart: --Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Kimball Laundry.
Kimball Laundry was the laundry facilities.
James F Goodhart: Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: They took the laundry facilities for 3 years, but there what they did is they went in and they took this building, you know, took the whole thing.
James F Goodhart: Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The problem with a flood is you don't take all the land.
You send some stuff in.
And the stuff is there for a while, and then it comes back, and -- it's called water.
And so I don't know what to make of the cases like Kimball Laundry where you actually appropriate the property.
I suspect that they are not quite the same.
I got Dickinson; I've got Kimball Laundry.
Justice Antonin Scalia: We have cases about flying over land--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yes, Causby.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --cases about shooting -- shooting over lands.
James F Goodhart: Yes, Your Honor.
The Causby case--
Justice Antonin Scalia: That's not water, but it ain't taking, either, in the -- in the narrow sense that Justice Breyer has talked about.
James F Goodhart: --Yes, Your Honor.
The -- the United States flooded the air over the Causby's residence and commercial chicken farm.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yeah, but in Causby, what they did -- there was a question about whether just flying some airplanes over is a taking or a trespass.
But it went on for 25 years, soit was a long time.
And, therefore, the permanency of it I don't think is at issue there.
James F Goodhart: Yes.
Your Honor, in this case, the court -- the Court of Federal Claims found that these deviations resulted, in over 8 years, 6 consecutive years of recurring flood invasions during -- during the summertime, during unnatural time periods; and that the facts were more compelling than even in Causby with the overflies or in Portsmouth Harbor with cannon shots flooding the air over Portsmouth Landing Harbor Hotel.
This -- these flood invasions happened each year for specific sustained time periods.
The United States controlled the timing, the frequency, and the extent of the duration of these floods.
Justice Antonin Scalia: What if it hadn't harmed the timber?
I mean, you know, the damages claimed are a lot -- a lot of the timber that would have been valuable was -- was impaired by these floodings.
Suppose that did no harm at all?
Suppose it had just been for a certain period of time you were not able to use that land for anything?
You couldn't plant anything on it.
You couldn't picnic on it.
You couldn't do anything.
Would that have been -- nonetheless, despite the fact that there -- there was no harm done except -- except the flooding -- would that have been a taking?
James F Goodhart: Your Honor, no.
If -- there would not have been a taking unless the landowner could show substantial intrusion upon his protected property rights.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Well, he has.
James F Goodhart: If -- Your Honor, if he can show that the -- he has the right to exclude superinduced invasions of water, that -- so it doesn't interfere with his use and enjoyment.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --It does.
He can't plow on it.
He can't picnic on it.
How does that not interfere with his--
James F Goodhart: --Well, and it very may well, Your Honor.
And here, that -- there was that--
Justice Antonin Scalia: --So it would be a taking.
Are you saying yes or no?
What is it?
James F Goodhart: --I'm saying, yes, if he can show that it intruded on his use and enjoyment, and as you said, indicated, that type of interference, yes.
It would be a -- it would be a substantial intrusion on his rights to use his property--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: So that would cover a one-time flood.
James F Goodhart: --Not necessarily, Justice Ginsburg.
A one-time flood that is extensive, it could kill all the trees on this management area in one flood.
However, one flood may not result in substantial intrusion on protected property rights.
So it's going to depend on the facts, Your Honor, in the case.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I don't understand that.
You said if -- if it's one flood, even though it destroys the trees, and certainly would not make -- would make it impossible to have picnics, what -- so if that's your position, then you're turning on it happened six times, not once.
James F Goodhart: And, Your Honor, what I'm saying, it's a proof of facts.
The physical takings analysis is the same.
The legal analysis is the same.
But one flood could effectively destroy timber if it is a lake; if it sits there.
We didn't have that in our case.
We had intrusion during 1993 to 2000, 8 years, 6 of which were substantially throughout the summer where this management area sat in water during June, July, into August, basically, stagnated water that choked the oxygen from the roots of these trees.
And in 1999 it was termed a brownout.
It was massive.
Once the timber inventory was done, it revealed that there was over 100,000 trees in a 6,990-acre area that were either destroyed or were -- were in the process of dying.
And that didn't include the other 11,000 acres that we subsequently inventoried.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Counsel, all of our cases in this temporary versus permanent, as I read the cases and I read what the multiple facts that each are relying on, it seems to me that our cases have been attempting, in the term “ temporary ”, to encompass a lot of different concepts.
Both intentionality, because an accidental issue is not a taking; causation: Did this -- and that's part of Sanguinetti's holding -- did what the government do actually and directly cause the injury at issue?
And foreseeability: Is what you intended something whose consequences you could have seen?
And they are using that in a multifaceted test, one that the Solicitor General is not trying to endorse here, but one that I think is more consistent with our general jurisprudence in this area.
So there is never a simple answer on the question of permanent damage, because you can have permanent damage that's not a taking if all of the other factors I've just mentioned are not in your favor.
Is that correct?
James F Goodhart: Yes, Your Honor, you're correct.
The -- the invasion has to be direct by the United States.
The Court of Federal Claims found that -- that it was direct, natural, and probable -- the results were -- from the Government's action.
One thing in water cases is you don't have dye in the water.
Mr. Causby could look up and see the insignia on the airplanes.
And we knew that the cannon fire from the -- from the artillery was coming over the Portsmouth Harbor's land was from the Government.
The water, you can't always tell.
And so you have to prove that that was directly from the United States.
And the commission in this case did.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I guess the problem with this case, and it's part of what's interwoven in your adversary's arguments, is that with flooding it's going to occur naturally anyway.
The Government generally builds dams to control that flooding to the benefit of all of the interests along its affected route.
And at some point, either the Government is going to -- is going to make a decision that's going to help someone and potentially hurt someone.
And the question is, is in all of those situations going to be subject to litigation.
The Government's rule -- I call it the Government's rule, but it's -- is basically simple.
Because, if the deviation is temporary -- and that's what the circuit below said -- it's just exercise.
It's either a nuisance or temporary trespass, and we're not going to hold the Government responsible for that loss.
Assuming it's going to occur in part because flooding is always going to occur, the question is perhaps when.
But in any place you have a dam, it's there because flooding was happening.
Isn't that the basic argument?
And I don't know that you've actually announced the rule that addresses the essence of the policy considerations that are driving the government decision.
So tell me how your rule makes this a manageable situation.
James F Goodhart: Your Honor, the -- the two elements of the rule, that there must be direct physical invasion by the United States and not from some other cause, and there must be substantial intrusion upon these protected property rights, the right to exclude, the right to use and enjoy, and the right to dispose, that--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: But that's every flood.
James F Goodhart: --That runs throughout this Court's--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: But that's every flood.
James F Goodhart: --Yes, Your Honor, it is.
But the United States, when it does its flood control--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: No, no, no, I don't -- why is that every flood?
You go through your three factors, you could have lots of flood that aren't a substantial intrusion.
You know, you get an extra inch of water, and then it recedes.
And it's -- you know--
James F Goodhart: --That's--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --you get a note from the Corps of Engineers saying, we're sorry, it won't happen again.
That's not -- every flood is not--
James F Goodhart: --Not -- you're correct, Mr. Chief Justice.
Every flood is certainly not rising to the level of a taking.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: I guess what we're asking you is, how do you define the baseline of protected expectations for the property?
James F Goodhart: Your Honor--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: You've indicated, I think, in your brief that one year won't do it.
This was six or seven years.
If that's a baseline of expectations, the government cannot change that, even if it thinks that there is a higher and -- and more urgent priority in protecting some other land?
James F Goodhart: --Your Honor, the -- certainly, the government is not the insurer of -- of flood control, how they just carry it out.
There is the case that's cited in the government's brief, United States v. Sponenbarger, which says that very thing.
The United States is not the insurer of it.
But when it takes water and it controls water and releases it in a manner that's not from storms, not from natural, but does it in a manner that they control how it's released and the duration, frequency, and they use property to store that water for eight -- you know, over eight years, that in this case was -- was compelling.
And the court found that those facts--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But my question is how do you define the baseline that gives a legitimate expectation, if the Corps of Engineers -- did not happen in this case, but in the hypothetical case -- makes the finding that there is a more urgent and -- and a higher priority for other lands, and it changes its policy?
It cannot do that?
James F Goodhart: --Your Honor, it can go through its law, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act.
It can make changes, and then it can pay for what it's going to take from private landowners.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Well, what you're saying is that it can't make that change without paying, right?
James F Goodhart: It -- it cannot make that change where it's going to burden the landowner and interfere with that -- those property rights that the Fifth Amendment is guaranteeing.
Now, it can practice--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Now suppose, at the very outset of the dam, the government says, we've got to put this water someplace, we're going to put it on the left bank, not the right bank.
That's not a taking as of that time--
James F Goodhart: --Your Honor--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: --if the land was always flooded anyway on the right?
James F Goodhart: --That may not be a taking.
And, for example, in the Bedford case in 1904, where a revetment was in the Mississippi River, it was trying to control natural erosion from a cutoff that had been created, the landowner could not show--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: But what I want is the definition of the operable baseline that we can use in order to define whether or not there has been a taking.
James F Goodhart: --And, Your Honor, I guess I must say it may not be a bright line.
It is -- the analysis here that this Court has used throughout its physical takings cases will separate the torts from the takings.
And, here again, the United States -- this has worked well in other cases for the United States, where in Sanguinetti there was no--
Justice Samuel Alito: Should the baseline be what would have happened if the dam was never built?
James F Goodhart: --Perhaps, Your Honor.
And in this case, for example, the court had evidence that this land flourished before the dam.
There was evidence that this bottomland hardwood forest existed for generations.
And when the control plan was put in effect in 1953, it worked fine because they mimicked natural flow where late -- late winter and early spring, you have your releases, they dissipate, the water recedes, but you don't have extensive summertime flooding from a river.
Frankly, anywhere in the country, but certainly not in the southern part of the United States, these rivers do not overflow during June, July, August.
This never happens.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But what do you suggest -- what do you suggest -- I looked at the consent.
James F Goodhart: Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: To tell you the truth, I think it's permanent.
I think they're thinking it's intermittent, but permanently intermittent.
James F Goodhart: Yes, Your Honor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The flood comes like three months a year every year.
And the erosion, they say that part that's eroded belongs to the government now.
And if he comes back with his dirt and puts it in, that's fine, but he's trespassing on government land.
So if I'm right in reading that, if I'm right -- and a big if -- it seems that eleven cases somewhat stand for this, I agree, somewhat arbitrary rule.
Now -- so I'm tempted, if I'm right, to say, okay, it's not perfect, but let's go with it.
There are people all over the country who have probably relied on this stuff.
And that would be so absent a better rule.
So what do you suggest would be a better, clearer rule for compensating for flooding where our problem is what's a trespass and what's a taking?
James F Goodhart: And, Your Honor, I know it cannot be the Federal circuit's rule that you can never have temporary flooding as a taking.
And I guess I would--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: You know, but I want to know what your idea -- I understand the difficulties are there--
James F Goodhart: --Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --and I'm willing to accept a lot you mentioned.
James F Goodhart: Yes.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But what I'm asking -- which I just did ask -- is what's your idea of a substitute that would be better?
James F Goodhart: Your Honor, the substitute would be to remain consistent with how this Court analyzes the physical takings, not use anything from regulatory analysis here, but looking at these elements.
And the -- the Corps of Engineers will need -- when they know that it's predictable, that it is foreseeable, as the court below found, that -- that their actions will place water for storage on land that they know they can purchase flood easements for--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: So a Department of the Interior employee trespasses on Jones's land, trampling paths, and even limbs fall off trees.
That's a taking and not a trespass?
James F Goodhart: --No, Your Honor, it's not.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Because?
James F Goodhart: And because the Court said in the Cress case, it's the character of the government's action, not the amount of damages resulting from it, so long as that is substantial.
And in the cases, the Court has looked at what is substantial intrusion.
In Loretto, the Court said a permanent physical occupation on a rooftop in Ms. Loretto's building, small area, that is substantial, even though geographically it was very small, because it cut through these valuable property rights to occupy someone's property.
And so substantial may not have to be very high.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: So our department employee trying to find a shortcut drives his bulldozer through Jones's land knocking down his favorite redwood, it's a taking?
James F Goodhart: Your Honor, I think we would, again, use the analysis, separate out the torts, where the action is direct, it's been predictable what would that would result in, the United States should know that, and then the intrusion or interference with those property rights is substantial, there will be a taking.
Usually that's not going to be the case in a one-time situation, as your hypothetical.
And, again, here the court heard six consecutive years of this invasion of water.
The commission couldn't turn it away.
Justice Antonin Scalia: So our cases -- our cases treat physical occupations differently from other -- from other cases, don't they?
The park ranger walking through can hardly be called a physical occupation.
He's on the land, but it's not a physical occupation.
What you're -- what you're arguing here is that -- is that flooding the land is a physical occupation for the period that it's flooded.
James F Goodhart: It is, Your Honor.
Where it's an occupation, it's certainly clearer and more intrusive.
There can be invasions that don't amount to an occupation.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Yes, but what you say -- here's what troubles me.
You say it has to be substantial.
But you -- can we -- can we fold into that word substantial a requirement that it have caused substantial financial loss?
See, if that were the case, then -- then I could distinguish your case where a lot of valuable trees got destroyed.
James F Goodhart: Certainly, Your Honor.
Justice Antonin Scalia: And I wouldn't say every -- you know, every flood that goes across a land, even two years or three years in a row, would not necessarily be a taking.
James F Goodhart: --You could look at the economic part -- yes, definitely, Your Honor.
What is substantial is going to be made as a legal determination by the Corps, as a matter of degree.
And you can look at the extent of the damages -- if there is destruction of property.
Destruction has been -- as in the Kansas City Life case in 1950, the taking is to the extent of the destruction.
Beyond that, though, it's looking at interference with use and enjoyment--
Justice Antonin Scalia: What was the Kansas City case that you are referring to?
James F Goodhart: --The Kansas City Life Insurance case in 1950, Your Honor, was underflow invasion of water percolating up on property in Missouri from the Mississippi River.
And that was found to be a substantial invasion where the property, the 1700 acres, was taken by the United States.
And the Court there said, when you destroy the use of that property for what it was being used by the landowner, you owe to the extent of the destruction that you have caused.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: --Mr. Goodhart, maybe it would help to know what you think if we accept your position would be left over for the Federal Circuit to consider on remand.
You haven't asked to -- for outright reversal and have the decision of the Court of Federal Claims be the end of the matter.
So if we accept your position, then what issues would be open for the Federal Circuit to resolve on remand?
James F Goodhart: Your Honor, if I may, after answering your question I would like to reserve the remainder of my time.
Your Honor, I wish we could have asked for affirmance.
There are several other issues that the Federal Circuit did not disturb or address.
They did not go into the facts of, on appeal, that the United States--
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Well, the question is what do we say to the circuit?
What do you want us to tell the circuit to do on remand?
James F Goodhart: --We want the remand to say: Apply the rule of law here for physical taking and look at it as the Court of Federal Claims did: Was there a direct physical injury?
Did it result in substantial intrusion on the commission's property?
If so, the Just Compensation Clause is self-actuating and there should be just compensation.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: But what were the other issues that you just mentioned?
You said we couldn't ask for an automatic affirmance.
James F Goodhart: The United States raised several issues and the commission cross-appealed in asking for regeneration damages, Your Honor, and those would need to be addressed on the remand.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Thank you, counsel.
ORAL ARGUMENT OF EDWIN S. KNEEDLER ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES
Edwin S. Kneedler: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
As has been pointed out, this Court has consistently held in its flooding cases and reaffirmed in Loretto that a taking occurs in the context of flooding only if the flooding is the direct result of the structure itself and if it results in a permanent effect on the property such that it's an actual appropriation.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So it's -- there is a little confusion about the Government's position, there was in the court of appeals.
Is it -- I'm quoting from your friend's brief, and he says:
"The Federal Circuit adopted a categorical rule that temporary government action can never be a taking if the government does not intend to create a permanent flooding condition. "
Is that an accurate statement of your understanding?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I think the intent point, I guess I would modify that.
There are some things that -- I think it would have to be an objective standard.
In Dickinson, for example, the modification was intrinsically permanent.
The landowner had corrected for it.
But it was intrinsically permanent until the landowner had done something about it.
So actually Dickinson is consistent with our -- with our position.
But I do want -- there is a critical piece about this case that Justice Kennedy's questions have touched upon that I think it's very important for this Court to focus upon.
This case is not about flooding by the project itself.
The reservoir behind the dam, the easements, the flowing easements there, the spillway, the project is the Government and I think it's fair to say the Government is occupying the land when the Government builds the project.
What we have here are incidental consequences downstream from the dam as a result of the flowage.
And there are -- Loretto, when it is summing up this Court's flooding cases, makes two points.
One, it says it has to be permanent, not temporary invasion; but it also distinguishes the category of cases in which there is conduct outside the landowner's property that has consequential damages within the property.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I don't -- I don't understand what you're saying.
Are you saying that if this landowner owned land behind the dam that was temporarily flooded as often as has happened here, that that would be a taking?
Edwin S. Kneedler: No.
Justice Antonin Scalia: No, I didn't think you were saying that.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No, but what I'm saying is this would be a particularly bad or problematic context for the Court to depart from that.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, there are pretty clear findings in the Court of Claims on the question of causation, right?
Edwin S. Kneedler: I don't think it's a question of causation, and if I could just point out two cases, one of which was cited in Loretto in its summing up of this Court's flooding cases is Bedford.
Bedford was a situation in which a revetment, as counsel pointed out, a revetment was constructed in the -- in the Mississippi River to protect erosion and access to the City of Vicksburg.
It was -- it was clearly shown in that case that over time, over a period of 6 years, as in this case, downstream by 6 miles it resulted in permanent flooding of land as a consequence of that.
But what the Court said is that is consequential injury downstream; it is not occupation by the Government.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So, so if the Government comes in and tells a landowner downstream that every March and April we are going to flood your property so that you can't use it, from now on, that's the way -- that's part of our plan, that's a taking for those 2 months, correct?
Edwin S. Kneedler: No.
I don't think--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: No?
The Government says you will not be able to use your land because of what we are doing for 2 months -- you have been able to up to now, but from now on, for March and April, you can't.
That's not a taking?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I don't, and let me explain why.
What we're talking about here is the Corps of Engineers operating a dam from which it has to take into account multiple considerations.
In this case, there was marina operators, there were farmers along the river, there were drainage districts.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: I'll grant you that it can decide whose land it wants to take.
I just want to know why that's not a taking.
Edwin S. Kneedler: Because this is a classic example of the Government adjusting benefits and burdens.
This is why the Federal Government was invited in to construct these projects because along the river there was very serious flooding.
So the Government puts in a dam to control the flooding, it has to release the flood waters, and the timing of the release of the flood waters is something that you have to take into account--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: So if the Government says we've got to release the flood waters and what we're going to do is we're going to have water trucks pull up behind the dam, we're going to load them up and we're going to drive them downriver to this person's property and we're going to dump the water there?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I think that's a different situation because the Government itself is actually putting the water -- I think that's very close to being the reservoir behind the dam.
But -- but typically, when the Government -- I think uniformly, when the Government is operating--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: But your answer is that would be a taking?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I think because it would be -- it would be specifically deposited on that landowner's land.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, I thought--
Edwin S. Kneedler: It would be the same as if they put a pipe from the dam--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Right.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --to that person's land.
But that's not what's happening when the Government's operating a dam, and it's operating it with consequences for the basin.
It's not aimed at any particular landowner.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Again, I think the Court of Claims' findings are to the contrary.
Edwin S. Kneedler: Well--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: They said the Government knew that this water was going to go right here, right?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, it was not -- there is no suggestion that it was targeted at this land, which is -- which is I think something quite different.
This was -- this was an incidental consequence of what was happening downstream.
Again, in the Bedford case you had permanent--
Justice Antonin Scalia: A foreseeable and certain incidental consequence.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No, I don't believe foreseeable is enough.
It was -- it could have been -- it could have been foreseeable in Bedford.
Let me take a more -- a more dramatic example that I think illustrates this point.
This Court's decision in Sponenbarger which we cite in our brief, that case discusses a prior holding by this Court in a case called Jackson, which was a situation where a levee, Government built a levee on one side of the river which had the effect of flooding property on the opposite side of the river because it -- it kept it from going to this side and channelled it into the river and it caused it to overflow the -- the land on the other side, and the Court said that is not a taking.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What if the Government decides for purposes of flood control -- I don't know -- I don't know the ecological way -- but the water has to percolate or whatever down in this area.
So it goes onto this person's land and it cuts down $5 million worth of his trees.
The same purpose, to assist in flood control.
No doubt that that's a taking, right?
Edwin S. Kneedler: I think that would be--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Okay.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Unless there was some emergency justification.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Sure, sure.
And so the Government then comes down and says, we're going to flood your land and we know -- again, looking at the factual findings -- we know that will result in your trees dying, but because we're doing it for flood control, that's just too bad.
Different case when they go in with a chain saw than when they go in with the water?
Edwin S. Kneedler: Yes.
When they go in with the chain saw the Government is actually going on the property and the Government is, to use counsel's term, directly cutting down the trees.
I think it's very hard to explain consequences 110 miles downstream as being direct.
It's -- and there is no case that -- that Petitioner has pointed to with that sort of incidental consequence--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What is the legal rubric?
I mean what you're -- what I haven't thought of until you've been putting it this way is that the government builds a dam.
When it does it, water backs up behind the dam, and that water might flood somebody's land.
That's a taking, if it's at least permanent, and so forth.
Now, the government builds a dam, all that happens.
Because the government builds a dam, a lot of other things happen.
They release water sometimes.
They make electricity sometimes.
Different animals come in.
All kinds of things can happen to different people 200 yards down.
Some will be 200 miles down, 200 -- you know.
Some will be helpful, some will be hurtful.
Can they never bring a lawsuit?
Can they sometimes recover?
How do we look at that?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I think, under this Court's takings decisions, and specifically those dealing with effects caused by something outside the property, I think it is basically a per se rule.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, then, suppose what the government said is, Mr. Smith, you live 150 miles from here, and we have a rule, and our rule is you can't cut down any of your trees, and you can't farm the land, and you can't even walk on it without a boat.
All right, that would be at least a regulatory taking.
Edwin S. Kneedler: Well, it would be -- it would be analyzed as a regulatory taking--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: So why -- now, they're doing exactly the same thing here, but, instead of a regulation, they send some water in to do it.
So should we analyze it as a regulatory taking?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --It has certain parallels in that respect in the sense that the government has to make a choice.
It's constructed the dam, and its releases are going to help someone and hurt someone.
It can't be put in a position where it's going to have to pay compensation every time it chooses one -- one thing or another.
There's another point I'd like to make--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, but that's the issue.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I'm totally confused now.
Is Dickinson decided wrong under your theory?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: They built a dam.
It raised the water level and flooded the petitioner's land, and the court gave recompense.
Edwin S. Kneedler: Yes.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: But you just said two minutes ago -- or I thought I heard you say -- that when the government builds a dam, even if it floods some people and not others, that there's no taking.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I'm talking about downstream, not the -- not the reservoir.
And after it goes--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: After it's--
Edwin S. Kneedler: --after it goes through--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --So the baseline -- tell me what the baseline is.
And perhaps you can answer Justice Kennedy's question more directly.
Anything in the reservoir is a taking.
Anything downstream is never a taking.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, assuming it's permanent in the reservoir, which it's likely to be when the government is constructing it--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Well, no, not necessarily.
Suppose there -- because of a spring melt-off or other factors, it's clear that the reservoir for several months of the year will be more extensive than it will the rest of the year.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Right.
Justice Antonin Scalia: So you could say, just -- just as here, that there's only been a temporary taking of some of the land behind the reservoir.
Now, doesn't the -- doesn't the government condemn all the land--
Edwin S. Kneedler: Yes.
Justice Antonin Scalia: --even that which would be only temporarily flooded?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, but that -- that is covered by this Court's decision in Cress, in which the Court said that if you have a situation where property is permanently liable to inevitably recurring flooding, that that's the same thing as a permanent -- even though sometimes it's not -- it's not covered, it is permanently liable.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: And the only difference in that formulation and this case is that it was for seven years and not permanent?
Is that your--
Edwin S. Kneedler: Well, insofar as we're looking at the temporary aspect of it.
It wasn't seven years, it was -- it was -- it was a series of individual determinations made by the Corps; but -- but for reasons that tie into the downstream effects, it was releasing water from the dam and was making a series of administrative decisions about how to operate the dam.
It has a water control manual.
Downstream landowners are protected, not by retroactive award of damages under the Just Compensation Clause, but by public participation requirements--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I must be -- I must be slow today because I'm -- I'm having significant problem with your articulation of your test.
Basically, you're saying once a dam is built -- once a dam is built, no downstream owner has a claim; or, you're building an exception from when the claim can be applied to a downstream owner?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I -- I -- I think, under this Court's current precedence, there would be no claim downstream.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: It doesn't matter whether it's permanent, reoccurring--
Edwin S. Kneedler: Foreseeable.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --foreseeable or anything else?
Edwin S. Kneedler: No, because Jackson, Spokenbarger -- Sponenbarger, the revetment case, Bedford were all cases where--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Right.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --where it was -- where it was permanent.
If I could mention one other point--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Well, just before you get off, because I think part of the confusion, at least for me, is the difference between what the Federal circuit decided and what you're arguing.
You seem to be arguing that it doesn't make any difference, it's not -- whether it's temporary or permanent, right?
The Federal circuit thought it was dispositive that this they viewed as temporary and not permanent.
So it seems to me that you're fighting, and you're fighting a lot of the court of claims' very exhaustive findings, to present a different argument.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: It seems to me that if we disagree, and we think it makes a difference that it doesn't have to be 50 years, but it might be something less, then maybe you've preserved all these other arguments or maybe not, but--
Edwin S. Kneedler: But I think it's -- we have argued, both below and here, that -- that this is consequential, and that -- that it's downstream and had those effects.
We agree with the -- with the Federal circuit, we are not disagreeing with that conclusion, because this is -- these were temporary -- a series of individual temporary decisions made for their own reasons.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --I know, but you agree -- you agree with the Federal circuit, but then you're presenting all these other arguments in which it doesn't depend.
So, if we disagree with the Federal circuit, it seems to me that we ought to say that, and maybe you can make these other arguments about it's too far downstream or--
Edwin S. Kneedler: Well, but -- but I think, in deciding what's temporary, you shouldn't divorce it from context.
And -- and here, the context is the consequences downstream.
This is -- this is not -- if you were to depart from the Court's rule up until this point about permanence -- and there has to be -- something less than permanent will do, I don't think you should ignore the fact that the consequences are not the sort of direct governmental occupation of the land like at the reservoir, but the sort of consequences downstream that affect -- that can affect a whole range of people.
And I would like to make one very important point about context, and that is, in 1928, after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, Congress first got into the flood control business in a massive way, but it -- it -- it was unwilling to do that if it was going to be held liable for consequential damages from flood waters downstream.
It therefore included Section 702(c) in the Flood Control Act of 1928, which says that the government shall not be liable for any damage to any property at any place resulting from floods or flood waters.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Of course, that can't overrule the Takings Clause, can it?
Edwin S. Kneedler: I think what it--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I mean, that's nice that Congress doesn't want to be liable.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No, but Congress -- no, it's -- the point is more fundamental than that.
Congress recognized -- and the legislative history shows this -- Congress recognized that under this Court's precedence, there would not be takings liability.
The Bedford decision is, in fact, cited in that.
This Court pointed out in its James decision, which recounts the history of that, that there was a proposal to -- to make the government responsible under the flood -- flood control projects for any taking or any damage to property.
And this Court said that went way beyond anything the Fifth Amendment would require, and it was cut back.
And Congress said it's not going to be liable for any damage.
And I think that shows a very important reliance interest on the part of Congress with respect to the line that this Court has drawn.
Congress was not going to--
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: What about -- Mr. Kneedler, what was wrong with Judge Newman's position on this temporary versus permanent?
It says that she said that temporary versus permanent, the target should not be the government's action, but the effect of that action; that is, if trees are killed and they weren't revived, the damage is permanent.
That's where we should vote, not whether the government is going to do this year after year.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I don't believe that that's correct.
I mean, that -- that would turn on the happenstance of what a particular landowner had -- had on his property downstream.
And I think the government, in operating the general project, cannot be held to do an investigation of every property owner.
Again, it's releasing water generally.
And if we -- maybe if I could use the levy example here.
This -- the release changes that were made here were made to protect farmers so that they could -- so that they could plant more crops and not -- and be protected during their harvesting.
If you shift back to what the Corps -- to the Corps' regular operating scheme, it affects the farmers.
There might be a flood--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I mean, the issue is who is going to pay for the wonderful benefit to these farmers.
Should it be everybody, so that the government pays, and all of us pay through taxes, or should it be this -- this particular sorry landowner who happens to lose all his trees?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --It is in the nature--
Justice Antonin Scalia: That doesn't seem to me particularly fair.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --It is in the nature of living along a river.
Riparian ownership carries with it certain risks and uncertainties, from weather, from intervening causes.
The government is -- there are a thousand square miles, more square miles of drainage area--
Justice Antonin Scalia: I don't think -- one of those risks has to be the Government's going to make you pay for protecting somebody else.
Is that one of the risks?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, when -- picking up on what I said about Congress, Congress would not have gotten into the flood control business without this protection of liability.
Justice Antonin Scalia: I doubt that.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, this Court in James said it was an important condition for Congress getting into it, that it was not -- Congress was not going to be held liable for the -- for the damages downstream.
That came to be the basis, the baseline, of expectations for people downstream from--
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: --Or upstream, under your theory.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, if it's -- but the construction of the project itself and the flooding of the reservoir, the Government condemns that land, purchases that land.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: --Well, the hypothetical is, suppose it doesn't.
Suppose that there's some land that's up -- that's fairly far upstream from the main reservoir, but it's flooded once every other year.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, the question would be whether it falls within the Cress test of whether it is permanently liable.
Justice Anthony Kennedy: Your -- but your position seems to be that if it's downstream, somehow it's not the Government.
There's a series of administrative actions and it's not really the Government's water.
It's like -- it's like the old moral of refuge that the rocket designers take: You know, I make the rockets go up; where -- where they come down is not my concern.
Edwin S. Kneedler: It -- it was basically -- I mean, it was the rationale of this Court's cases in -- in Bedford, in Sponenbarger, and reaffirmed by this Court in Loretto, a modern takings case dealing with the question of physical occupation.
And the Court said that -- and it made two points.
Again, it said -- it made the temporary versus permanent point, but it also made the point about conduct outside the land that has an effect inside the land.
This case has both of those features.
You have a series of temporary decisions--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: But building a Government project, let's say an electricity plant or high tension wires, you could require the taking of some land to build it.
Now, you've got that and you begin to run it.
You could run it in such a way that it takes some of the property.
I mean, the electricity could, for example, because of some odd thing run around over somebody's land and kill all the chickens.
That wasn't expected but it happens, and it happened because of the way the Government runs the plant.
Now, I guess there would be a taking in such circumstance if in fact, because of the way it's run, it makes that land which no one thought would happen, as a consequence of the project uninhabitable; wouldn't there be?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, again, it depends.
If the Government -- if the Government is occupying the land when it happens, yes.
But there's -- as you've I think pointed out, there's a critical difference between a tort and a taking.
And there -- there can be collateral consequences of what the Government does that -- that cause injury.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: The collateral consequence is to make some piece of land 4 miles away quite unexpectedly but totally uninhabitable.
Now, what's supposed to happen there?
That's not just a trespass because it's permanent.
And even if it's once every 2 years, it's permanently once every 2 years.
Edwin S. Kneedler: I think it would depend on whether -- and there was a -- a case -- I believe it's the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: What does it say?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --It says if the -- it had to do with releasing smoke from -- from a train.
And the Court said just -- just releasing it into the air--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Yes, but they made this--
Edwin S. Kneedler: --but -- but if you focus it on someone--
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: --Yes.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --If -- if you pipe it -- if you pipe it to the person's property, that's a -- that may be a different matter.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: All right.
So -- well, that's the part -- that's the point.
The reason they don't compensate there is it apparently had something to do with everybody suffering the cinders.
But where the cinders went out of the train and they ended up on just one person's property because there were some pipes or something, then it was a taking.
Edwin S. Kneedler: It was focused, and that's not -- not true in the operation of the dam.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer: Well, here they're focusing it on his land.
Edwin S. Kneedler: They're not focusing it on his land.
His land -- first of all, the commission's land has always been subject to flooding and, as we pointed out in our brief, even under -- even under Petitioner's analysis, it results in an incremental flooding of 5, 4 or -- 3 or 4 days.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Not flooding that time of year.
That's the problem.
I mean -- yes, flooding at a time when it wouldn't harm the trees.
Edwin S. Kneedler: But it is land -- it is land in a floodplain that would be suitable for any sort of construction or development.
It is land in a floodplain.
And they have -- they have not argued, and in fact, their appraiser in this case acknowledged, that there is no permanent decrease in the valuation of the land.
They are -- they are arguing only about trees.
And that is -- that seems classic consequential tort-type damages, that -- that flood waters, we'll assume in somewhat greater increments, went on the land and damaged trees.
They didn't damage the land.
In fact, the commission -- there was still hunting on the land during this period of time.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: It strikes me that that's a valuation question.
But I understood you to say that if there was a pipe coming out of the dam and it went to somebody's -- right to the property line of somebody's land and that's where you dump the water, that would be a taking.
Edwin S. Kneedler: Yes.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Okay.
I thought the factual findings in the trial court said that was this case, that you knew when you opened up the dam that this is where the water was going to go.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --First of all, the Court -- the Court did not say that the Government knew.
In fact, it said the Government was unaware -- this discussion's between 95a and 99a in the Court of Federal Claims decision -- that the Government was unaware in -- in 1993.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: What about 6 years later, when it was doing the same thing and the water went to the same place?
Edwin S. Kneedler: The taking goes -- the taking claim here goes from 1993 to 1998.
The Court of Federal Claims said even as of 19 -- at least until 1996, it was generally assumed that the operations of the dam did not have a significant impact below the Missouri-Arkansas line.
Again, this is 110 miles downstream.
This was in no way focused on the -- on the commission's land, but--
Justice Samuel Alito: Are you saying there's a difference between the situation where the Government particularly wants the water to go to a -- to a place, and the situation where the Government knows that's where it's going to go but doesn't particularly care where it's going to go?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I think there's a -- I don't know about the “ intend ”.
I mean, in the hypothetical with the Chief Justice the Government was actually transmitting the water.
It was essentially using the land as -- as a reservoir.
And that -- that's, I think, what Petitioner's counsel was trying to conjure up by saying the Government was using this land for storage.
The Government was not using this land for storage.
The -- this wasn't the Government's water.
There weren't any outtakes from the commission's land to use this water.
These were flood waters, which again the Flood Control Act says the Government is not liable for the release of flood waters from a project, that ended up on the land that is an incidental consequence of the operation of a flood control project.
People who live in a basin where there is a flood control project get enormous benefits in the control of that.
The water has to be released.
And it has long been the case that the way that problem is -- that issue is handled about how it will be released is by ordinary administrative law principles, basically, with the Corps, in operating the dam, they have requirements of public participation.
In this case, the commission participated on ad hoc planning groups.
This manual had not been updated in 50 years.
Corps regulations say that manuals should be updated to keep apace of changing circumstances, population changes, different uses, environmental concerns, so that when that happens, the commission acted responsibly here and, had--
Justice Antonin Scalia: You -- you would say that even -- even if this land was permanently flooded, okay, permanently flooded so he couldn't use it at all, since it was downstream, no harm done, right?
Edwin S. Kneedler: --I think that's the consequence of this -- but there's no -- the Court doesn't have to decide that here.
Justice Antonin Scalia: But that's your position.
Edwin S. Kneedler: That -- that's I think the necessary consequence of this Court's holdings in Bedford, in Bedford and related cases.
And -- it may have harshness in some circumstances.
But again, when you live on a river and you know the consequences of having a flood control project on the river, that -- that's what happens, but this is not arbitrary.
There is this planning process.
There is notice and comment.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: If there's notice and comment -- so the choice is, there are 10 landowners downstream.
The question is which one you're going to flood.
And you flood number 2, and there is a public process in which number 1 and 3 through 10 get to say, yeah, this sounds fine to me.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No, that's not -- that's not what happens.
What the Corps was working for here, it's commendable.
The Corps was trying to develop a consensus of downstream water users, which is why it convened this ad hoc working group: The commission drainage districts, representatives of farmers, the marina, the Corps of Engineers, getting everybody together to try to come up with a -- with a way to handle the problem.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: But what difference does that make?
It's nice that you try to reach consensus.
If number 2 is not going to be part of the consensus because he's the one always affected--
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --you're saying permanency -- permanency, repetition, nothing counts, he's just -- loses.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --No.
He doesn't lose because he has an action under the Administrative Procedure Act.
He's not -- the -- the Corps is required to take into account various factors including, specifically, the impact on other people in the basin when it's making a decision.
If the Corps--
Justice Antonin Scalia: Yeah, but he loses because the Corps comes in and says, yeah, indeed, we did flood 2, but, in order to save, you know, 1 and 3 through 10.
And -- and he'd lose.
Edwin S. Kneedler: --Well, the Corps cannot be arbitrary in doing that.
Justice Antonin Scalia: Okay.
It's not arbitrary.
Edwin S. Kneedler: But the -- but the Corps requires a broad ambit of discretion in managing a river over time, and it has to be able to change to update circumstances without exposing the United States to massive liability.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Mr. Kneedler, does your essential argument turn on this being indirect, as you say?
This is consequential; therefore, it isn't -- it doesn't belong in the takings category, anything that's consequential rather than direct?
Edwin S. Kneedler: We have two submissions.
I mean, it's the confluence of both factors mentioned in Loretto.
And the Court doesn't have to decide anything broader than that.
It's the temporary nature of the decisions.
These were individual decisions made often with a recommendation or concurrence of the ad hoc committee.
So it's temporary in nature -- self limiting, as everyone knew as part of this ongoing planning process -- but, also, particularly in this case, where it has only consequential effects downstream, which is, again, the way the Court -- including in Lionel, one of the leading cases -- the Court says that this is consequential.
Justice Samuel Alito: Why should it make a difference whether the court had -- the Corps has a plan which says, we're going to release this water every summer, and a situation where, year after year after year, somebody makes an ad hoc decision in the summer that we're going to release the water?
Edwin S. Kneedler: I don't think analytically, for the reasons I said about -- about the downstream; but, to the extent the Court is focusing on temporary, these were self-limiting, and there was no guarantee they were going to be renewed.
And, in fact, at the end of this process, the court -- or the Corps decided not to adopt a permanent change after going through the NEPA process.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, Mr. Kneedler.
Mr. Goodhart, you have four minutes remaining.
REBUTTAL ARGUMENT OF JAMES F. GOODHART ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER
James F Goodhart: Thank you.
As -- as my friend has said about these damages being consequential and just affecting trees and not -- not the land, the -- the court did not find that this was just consequential downstream damage; that this was direct, natural, and probable from these releases that the commission had protested and complained about for years.
That -- that that's in the record, that they knew that they were using this land to store this water.
And the commission could not get their attention to stop it until our director -- it was on Valentine's Day in 2001 -- brought the appraisal to the Corps of Engineers' office, a whole roomful of people from both sides, and placed that report from -- from 2000, that said, over $4 million worth of valuable timber is gone, please stop.
We -- we were -- we were pleading.
So they knew.
And I think the Court of Federal Claims found that they -- they had the understanding that they were using this to accommodate the farmers who were using marginally low property, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says in the record probably should have been cleared anyway, but they were wanting to provide and adjust the benefits for those landowners and use the commission's property to store the water.
And, Your Honor, I don't know, Justice Kennedy, where the line should be drawn, but the cases of Sponenbarger and Bedford and Sanguinetti say that when it's not the United States' structure or it's not the policy -- and the landowner cannot show that, that it's from storms or from something in nature -- that's not going to incur liability.
Even negligence may not incur liability unless it's direct that what -- how it caused, and then substantial intrusion.
And, Your Honor, I think--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Is the baseline -- go back to Justice Kennedy's question -- is it before the dam or after the dam, and why is it one or the other?
If flooding was going to occur more unpredictably before the dam, and possibly summer flooding of this kind could have happened, do you lose?
James F Goodhart: --Your Honor, under that -- under those facts, if it could have happened and the landowner knew that, and that that is -- that is a cause, not the United States, if -- if the United States takes away its flood protection and this land goes back to what it would be naturally, then the landowner can't prove that it's direct from the United States.
The landowner would not recover in that instance.
In this situation, the evidence--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Even though after the dam and the dam's plan was to ensure that it didn't happen, you would still lose?
If natural conditions--
James F Goodhart: --Your Honor--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: --would have possibly caused this, you would lose?
James F Goodhart: --If -- if it's not super-induced invasions directly from the United States, the landowner is going to have that as a natural condition.
Here, that was certainly not the case.
Summertime flooding of this type never happened in the recorded history.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Pre-dam.
In the recorded history.
James F Goodhart: In the pre-dam or during the whole first 40 years of how this was operated.
It was when it was adjusted that the United States used this land and then took the valuable timber.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I'm not sure that's not open to dispute.
There is some argument here that rainfall that was naturally occurring contributed to what was happening to the trees.
James F Goodhart: And I--
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: I think that there is -- at least that's what I understood some of the factual argument to be.
James F Goodhart: --No, Your Honor.
I think the record is clear that this was directed naturally, probably without the -- without the interference or addition of nature.
Thank you, Your Honor.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: Thank you, counsel.
Counsel, the case is submitted.
Justice Elena Kagan: Justice Ginsburg has our opinion this morning in case 11-597, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission versus The United States.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: This case concerns the Takings Clause of the Constitution, which instructs that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.
When is property taken for public use?
That question arises in the case we today resolve.
The Army Corps of Engineer operates a Dam on the Black River, upstream from a Wildlife Management Area owned and operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The management area comprises 23,000 acres of hardwood forest.
Between 1993 and 2000, the Corps operated the Dam in a manner that deviated from historical practice.
The Corps did so in order to accommodate the interest of farmers.
The Arkansas Commission alleged that these deviations, beneficial, as they may have been to farmers, lead to unprecedented levels of flooding on its forest domain over a six-year period.
The cumulative effect of the recurrent flooding, the Commission stated, damaged or destroyed more than 18 million board feet of timber and altered the character of the terrain.
After conducting a trial, the Court of Federal Claims ruled for the Commission, holding that the Corps' actions qualified as a taking of property, impermissible without just compensation.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed.
As a rule, the Appellate Court noted, government actions need not be permanent to count as a taking of property, but government induced flooding, the Federal Circuit held, is an exception to the general rule and must be permanent or inevitably recurring to rank as a taking of property.
We reversed the Federal Circuit's judgment.
Government induced flooding, we hold, even when finite in duration, gains no automatic exemption from Takings Clause inspection.
We have long held that a taking may occur when government action causes flooding of real property.
We have also held that government acquisition or invasion of property can be a taking, even when temporary in nature.
These settled holdings lead us to conclude a government induced flooding of limited duration but severe impact can amount to a taking of property, warranting just compensation.
In reaching the opposite conclusion, the Federal Circuit relied on United States against Sanguinetti, a 1924 decision in which this Court held that no taking occurred when a government constructed canal overflowed onto private land.
Language in the Court's opinion accounts for the Federal Circuit's position.
But the dispositive holding in Sanguinetti, was simply this, “The property owner failed to prove that the government's construction of the canal in fact caused the flooding.”
Read in light of that no-causation holding, Sanguinetti does not establish the temporary flooding under any and all circumstances escapes assessment under the Takings Clause.
Removing temporary flooding from Taking Clause inspection would be out of sync with our recognition that as a rule, temporary takings maybe compensable.
Why should Courts differentiate flooding from the myriad other instances of government occupation or invasion of property?
Given no persuasive reason to treat flooding as a unique category, we reject the temporary flooding exception on which the Federal Circuit grounded its decision.
We, in no way, suggest that all floodings caused by government are compensable.
Courts must assess the relevant facts and circumstances in each case to determine whether what the government has done amounts to a taking.
As our decisions in this area of counsel, Courts should consider the duration of the interference, whether the invasion was foreseeable when the government acted, the severity of the interference, and the degree to which it upsets the property owner's reasonable expectations regarding the lands used.
The Federal Circuit did not engage in these case-specific inquiries, nor did it consider arguments about damage to downstream property or the relevance of state law, matters raised for the first time in this Court and therefore, outside our review province.
The Court's opinion remanding the case to the Federal Circuit is unanimous.
Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.