Defending a family’s hopes, dreams — and property rights — and everyone’s legacy of liberty

Coastal Land Rights Project LighthouseThe Pacific Legal Foundation case of Murr v. Wisconsin and St. Croix County – now before the Supreme Court of the United States – is the story of a loving family defending a cherished legacy from their parents.

Decades ago, the late William Murr (a South St. Paul plumber) and his wife Dorothy bought a vacant parcel along the St. Croix River in Wisconsin, to pass down to their children as a family investment. But William and Dorothy's six adult children have had to fight all the way to the nation’s highest court to stop bureaucrats from robbing them of the use of that bequest..

The six siblings' dream was to sell this parcel in order to fund repair of a beloved family cabin, a gathering place for members of every generation of the extended Murr family, which sits on an adjacent lot that their parents bought several years before purchasing the vacant parcel. However, government officials stepped in and thwarted these plans. Imposing regulations that weren't in place when either parcel was purchased, they have forbidden the Murrs from selling or making any productive use of the vacant parcel.

They have also concocted a creative rationale to avoid liability for an unconstitutional taking. They are arbitrarily treating both lots as if they were a single unified parcel, even though the two parcels were bought by the Murrs' parents at different times and are legally distinct.


Represented by PLF attorneys, the Murrs' case poses a precedent-setting question: Can government take property without compensation simply because the owner happens to also own adjacent land? Are people denied constitutional protections for their property rights if government decides they own "too much" property?

Coastal Land Rights Project Lighthouse

"My Dad was a true soldier and servant of our country and believed strongly in our Constitution," says Donna Murr, one of the six Murr siblings. "Mom and Dad would be very proud of how they raised us kids and how we're standing up for what we believe in. If they were alive, they would have fought for the family's property rights - and everyone's property rights - just as we are doing."

"It is a privilege to represent the Murrs in defense of principles that are fundamental to our Constitution," said PLF General Counsel John Groen. "This is about justice for a family that has been wronged by local land use regulations, but it is also about everyone's property rights, from coast to coast. We are seeking to reaffirm that government can't use creative regulatory maneuvers to take property without compensation."

Created with flickr slideshow.




Matt Sissel: opposing the individual mandate

The ACA violates the constitutional procedures for imposing taxes


After serving eight years in the Iowa National Guard, including two years as a combat medic in Iraq, Matt Sissel set out on a new career as a professional artist. He finished his studies at the Toronto Academy of Realist Art in Canada, where he specialized in realistic painting and portraiture, and in August, 2010, returned home to Iowa City to produce and market his artwork. He now lives in Washington State, where he continues his art and remains in the National Guard Reserve.

Sissel is healthy and current on his medical expenses. He chose not to buy health insurance because he wanted to be free to invest in his own business instead; and costly insurance premiums aren’t worth the money to him. Sissel says he wants the freedom and flexibility to do his own budgeting, including setting aside money for his medical needs as he chooses, without government oversight. “As a small business owner,” Sissel says, “I don’t need the government telling me how to manage my expenses; they can’t even manage their own.”

Indeed, the financial consequences of the Act are already being felt. The ACA has begun burdening businesses with “more government-mandated paper work, fewer choices in health plans for their employees, and no mechanism to control costs.” Millions of Americans have either lost their health insurance plans and been forced onto government alternatives such as Medicaid, or have been allowed to keep their plans only because of the White House’s ad hoc decisions to withhold enforcement of key provisions of the ACA. Employers have been forced to postpone hiring, or to reduce working hours or to hold off increasing them, in order to make ends meet. And insurance premiums are on the rise nationwide.

Yet Sissel’s objection to the individual mandate is about more than dollars and cents. He believes he should be free to live his life without the federal government meddling in his most personal affairs. “I object to being conscripted into a federal health care program,” he says. Sissel’s fundamental opposition to the individual mandate is rooted in the Constitution’s principles of limited government: “My principles, I believe, are the same ones held by our Founding Fathers,” says Sissel. “To defend individual freedom, they tried to limit the size of the federal government and what it could do. They could not have conceived of the degree of federal entanglement in people’s personal, private choices that the Act represents.”

Shortly after the ACA was enacted, PLF attorneys filed suit challenging its constitutionality on Sissel’s behalf, arguing that the Individual Mandate violated the Commerce Clause. That case was stayed by the trial court while the Supreme Court took up the NFIB case (in which PLF participated as a “friend of the court”). The Court decided that case on June 28, 2012, ruling that the Individual Mandate did exceed the Commerce Clause power, but upholding the Mandate as an exercise of Congress’s power to tax, instead.  


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PLF Is Back In The Supreme Court March 20, 2017 

PLF Director of Litigation Jim Burling, interviews client Donna Murr, PLF General Counsel John Groen and PLF Attorney Dave Breemer about Murr's case which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 20, 2017.


St. Croix land use battle goes to Supreme Court

"The US Supreme Court will hear a property rights case that originated with a family's attempt to sell a lot adjacent to their cabin along the St. Croix River."

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St. Croix River Family takes Land Use Fight to US Supreme Court

"A metro family has taken their land rights fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Murr family St. Croix River cabin has been in the family for nearly 60 years. The cabin sits on one of two lots William and Dorothy Murr purchased in the 1960's. The first lot, was to build a cabin on in 1960 and the second, as an investment property. Before their deaths, the Murr parents passed the parcels along to their kids."

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Murr v. State of Wisconsin: Esoteric Regulatory Takings Question Could Affect All Homeowners

"Although the question at issue in Murr is somewhat esoteric, the answer has the potential to affect the public at large. Indeed, this issue crops up more frequently than one would assume."

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Finding the Denominator in Regulatory Takings Cases: A Preview of Murr v. Wisconsin

"The Supreme Court will take up an important property rights case that has been nearly forty years in the making. At issue in Murr v. Wisconsin is whether governments may treat two contiguous, commonly owned but legally distinct parcels of land as a single parcel for the purposes of regulatory takings liability."

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 Family delighted that property rights dispute gets U.S. Supreme Court hearing

“My dream is to fly out and listen to our attorneys argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, and I will pinch myself that it is really happening,” said Donna Murr. “Nobody granted review through our state courts, but now, by the luck of God, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to review it."

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Family's fight over vacation land goes to U.S. Supreme Court

“This litigation asks whether government can get away with telling property owners, in essence, 'The more land you own, the less we'll allow you to use,'" Groen said.

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Media Inquiry Contacts


                                 Kate Pomeroy                                     Harold Johnson

                                 Media Director, PLF D.C. Center                                  Director of Communications                                                                                Phone: (202) 888-6881                                                Phone: (916) 419-7111                                                                                E-Mail:                                      E-Mail: