United States v. Fuller
409 U.S. 488 (1973)

  • Fuller was a rancher who owned some land, leased some from the Arizona, and had a permit to graze on Federal lands.
    • The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 (43 U.S.C. 315) (TGA) established the permitting system for grazing on Federal lands.
  • The Federal government took most of the lands Fuller owned via eminent domain. The 5th Amendment required them to pay Fuller the fair market value for the lands. There was a disagreement over how to calculate the value of the lands.
    • The US argued that Fuller didn't have much land, so he couldn't graze a lot of cattle, therefore the land wasn't worth much.
    • Fuller argued that even though he didn't own a lot of land himself, he had permits for the use of a lot of adjacent Federal grazing land. So Fuller could use the small amount of land he owned to support a very large cattle ranch. Therefore the land was worth a lot.
      • Basically, Fuller was arguing that he had a property interest in the grazing permits.
    • The US argued that the TGA explicitly said that the permits do not create any property interests.
  • The Trial Court found for Fuller. The US appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that when calculating the value of Fuller's land, the fact he owned grazing permits needed to be factored in.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. The US appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found that Fuller had no property interest in the gazing permits.
    • The US Supreme Court acknowledged that the grazing permits did increase the amount someone would be willing to pay for Fuller's land.
    • However, the Court found that eminent domain doesn't always require that the government pay fair market value. It only has to pay "just compensation."
    • The Court looked to the TGA and found that it explicitly did not create any property interests. In addition, the permits were revocable. Therefore the 5th Amendment did not require that the government factor in the value of the grazing permits when deciding how much to pay Fuller for his land.
  • If Fuller had sold his land on the open market, the fact that he had grazing permits to go with the land would have substantially increased the selling price. This decision probably wasn't fair to him.