Miller v. Schoene
276 U.S. 272 (1928)

  • Virginia was attempting to control an outbreak of a plant disease that was affecting the apple crop. They ordered Miller to cut down a large number of cedar trees on his property to help control the spread of the disease.
    • Virginia was acting pursuant to the Cedar Rust Act of Virginia.
    • The lumber from the cedar trees could still be sold, but it wouldn’t be worth as much as if the trees were allowed to grow to full size.
  • Miller didn’t want to cut down his trees, so he sued for an injunction.
    • Miller argued that the request was an unconstitutional violation of the Takings Clause.
    • Miller argued that the State was choosing to destroy his property to save the property of another private citizen, and that was an unfair denial of due process.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld the law.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Virginia had a legitimate need to protect its citizens and its lands from environmental damage.
    • The Court found that Virginia was acting out of necessity, and when forced to such a choice, the State does not exceed its constitutional powers by deciding upon the destruction of one class of property in order to save another, which, in the judgment of the legislature, is of greater value to the public.
      • “For where, as here, the choice is unavoidable, we cannot say that its exercise, controlled by considerations of social policy which are not unreasonable, involves any denial of due process.
    • The Court found that if the State did not take action, then the apple tree owners would sue, claiming that the lack of regulation led to the destruction of their property, and that could constitute a taking.
      • Few people would think that if the apples were destroyed because of State inaction, the apple growers would deserve compensation. So by similar logic, the cedar growers don’t deserve compensation for their losses by State action.