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Family Takes Government Overreach to the Supreme Court


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SUPREME COURT—Imagine if you’d bought a piece of property solely as an investment, and then when it comes time to sell it, the government says you can’t because it’s changed the law.  Or you can only sell your investment lot if you sell the one with your home on it.

That’s what happened to Murr clan of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  They’ll now fight for their all-American right to sell their own land before the U.S Supreme Court Monday, March 20.

The patriarch of the Murr clan bought a property along the scenic St. Croix River back in the 1960s and built a dream vacation home for the family to enjoy across the decades. And so they could afford to rebuild or re-do that house way down the years, they bought the lot next door as an investment property.

Donna Murr is in Washington for the Supreme Court hearing and told CBN News that Wisconsin always treated the property like two lots, sending the Murrs separate property tax bills.

“We got two tax statements every year,” she said.

But in 2004, when the clan tried to sell the investment lot to revamp the vacation home, Wisconsin and St. Croix County said they’d changed the way they looked at the properties, and the Murrs could only sell the investment lot if they sold the lot with their vacation home on it.  The two properties were now considered one.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Murr recalled.  “It didn’t seem real at the time.  It’s like somebody’s joking. How can this be? I’ve used the word flabbergasted.”

She told CBN News it shook the Murrs’ faith in government.

She stated, “It’s to protect and to be there for you, and to have them do the opposite where you felt like they were stealing from you and taking away your rights versus helping to protect them, it felt very un-American.”

The Murrs are hoping the Supreme Court will side with them and not Wisconisn because the clan’s plans have been frozen in place for 13 years.

Murr explained, “Financially, to move forward with the improvements to the cabin depended on our ability to sell the lot next door.”

The high court’s ruling could affect many Americans.   The Pacific Legal Foundation represents the Murr family and PLF attorney Jim Burling told CBN News, “A lot of landowners might own more than one lot.”

When government takes your property or renders part of it useless to you, it’s supposed to pay you just compensation. The Murrs have been offered nothing.   Burling is offended by what Wisconsin’s basically telling property owners.

He stated it’s as if the state’s saying, “ ’Too bad.  We don’t have to pay you a dime for what we’ve taken.’  And that’s just wrong.”

Donna Murr insisted the case is about a lot more than the Murr clan.

“It is about the rights of all Americans,” she said.  “If people realize that what has happened to our family could happen to them, or it might be happening and they don’t even realize just like in our case – we didn’t know our rights were being violated until we actually wanted to exercise our right –  it could have an impact nationwide."

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About The Author


As a freelance reporter for CBN's Jerusalem bureau and during 27 years as senior correspondent in CBN's Washington bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, government, and God’s providential involvement in our world. Strand began his tenure at CBN News in 1985 as an evening assignment editor in Washington, D.C. After a year, he worked with CBN Radio News for three years, returning to the television newsroom to accept a position as a senior editor in 1990. Strand moved back to the nation's capital in 1995 and then to