Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission case brief

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission case brief summary
483 U.S. 825 (1987)

The landowners sought review of the decision of the California Court of Appeal, which ruled that the appellee coastal commission could condition the grant of a building permit on the transfer to the public of an easement across the appellants' beachfront property.

  • James and Marilyn Nollan (Ps) owned California beachfront property. 
  • When the Plaintiffs attempted to rebuild a home that was located on the property, the California Coastal Commission (defendant) granted their building permit, with a condition that the Nollans create an easement for the public to pass over their property to the public beach. 
  • The Nollans then brought this action to challenge the easement condition set by the Commission. 
  • The California Court of Appeal ruled that the condition was valid. 
  • The Nollans petitioned for certiorari to the US Supreme Court.
Appellant landowners brought this suit in order to invalidate a condition on their land permit which required them to grant to the public an easement across their beachfront property. The court of appeals held that the condition was valid and reversed the writ of mandamus that was issued by the superior court.


  • The United States Supreme Court granted review and found that the right to exclude others from private property was an essential right to property ownership. 
  • If a government action resulted in permanent occupation of land, it would effect a taking unless it substantially furthers legitimate state interests. 
  • The Court stated that California required the use of eminent domain in order to obtain easements across private property and that the condition imposed was not a use of eminent domain. 
  • The Court also held that the condition was a taking and that, if the state wanted an easement, it would have to give the appellants compensation.

The judgment of the court of appeals was reversed.
Conditioning a building permit upon the grant of a public easement constituted a taking of the appellant's property and the state was required to compensate the appellants.

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