The Path out of Washington's Takings Quagmire: The Case for Adopting the Federal Takings Analysis

By Wynne, Roger D. | Washington Law Review, February 2011 | Go to article overview

The Path out of Washington's Takings Quagmire: The Case for Adopting the Federal Takings Analysis


Wynne, Roger D., Washington Law Review


Abstract: A quagmire awaits anyone attempting to understand the analysis Washington courts employ to determine whether government action constitutes a "taking" of property for which compensation is due under the U.S. Constitution. The Washington takings analysis is complex and confounding, especially when compared to the relatively straightforward takings analysis established by the U.S. Supreme Court. This Article argues that the Washington State Supreme Court should reject the Washington takings analysis and adopt the federal analysis. Comparing the federal and Washington analyses underscores how, as a matter of form, the Washington analysis easily stymies those who must work with it. Substantively, the Washington analysis is unfounded on three key levels: (1) the existence of differences between the two analyses fatally undermines the Washington analysis; (2) the nature of those differences renders the Washington analysis constitutionally insufficient by lowering the floor of protection that property owners enjoy under the federal analysis; and (3) the differences do not enhance the federal analysis. Rejecting the Washington takings analysis in favor of the federal analysis would be consistent with the doctrine of stare decisis because the Washington State Supreme Court originally intended to harmonize Washington and federal takings law, even though the Court failed to implement that intent. When embracing the federal takings analysis, the Court should avoid mischaracterizations of the federal takings analysis and the temptation to justify the Washington analysis on independent state constitutional grounds for the first time.

INTRODUCTION ................................................................................. 127

I. THE WASHINGTON TAKINGS ANALYSIS IS MORE COMPLEX AND CONFOUNDING THAN THE FEDERAL TAKINGS ANALYSIS .................................................................. 129

A. The Federal Takings Analysis Is Relatively Simple and Omits Due Process Considerations ....................................... 129

B. The Washington Takings Analysis Remains a Quagmire for Those Who Must Discern and Apply It .......................... 134

1. The Complex Washington Takings Analysis Must Be Coaxed from Disjointed Case Law ...................... 134

2. Federal Courts, the Washington Court of Appeals, and Attorneys Struggle to Apply the Washington Takings Analysis ....................................................... 139

II. THE WASHINGTON TAKINGS ANALYSIS IS UNFOUNDED ............................................................................... 146

A. Differences Between the Washington and Federal Takings Analyses Fatally Undermine the Washington Analysis ................................................................................ 146

B. The Washington Takings Analysis Grew from an Illusory Premise into a Constitutionally Insufficient Substitute for the Federal Analysis .............................................................. 151

1. The Washington Analysis Is Structured on a Police-Power-or-Eminent-Domain Dichotomy and a Desire to Enhance Protections for Local Governments ............................................................. 151

2. The Police-Power-or-Eminent-Domain Dichotomy Is Illusory ................................................ 156

3. The Washington Analysis Is Constitutionally Insufficient Because, by Design, It Hampers Property Owners' Ability to Press Takings Claims ..160

C. Each of the Unique Elements of the Washington Takings Analysis Offers Little Value or Has Been Discredited by the U.S. Supreme Court ........................................................ 163

1. The "Fundamental Attribute" Element Stems from an Incorrect Prediction About the Direction of Federal Law, and Can Be Subsumed into the Penn Central Factors ...................................................... …

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