Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff 467 U.S. 229 (1984)

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HAWAII HOUSING AUTHORITY v. MIDKIFF 467 U.S. 229 (1984)

The system of feudal land tenure developed under the Hawaiian monarchy had modern consequences. Seventy-two landowners owned forty-seven percent of the land in the state, and the federal and state governments owned forty-nine percent; only four percent of the land was left for other owners. The Hawaii legislature, finding that this system distorted the land market, in 1967 adopted a land reform act. The law authorized use of the state's eminent domain power to condemn residential plots and to transfer ownership to existing tenants. Landowners challenged the law as authorizing takings of property for private benefit rather than public use. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected this argument, upholding the law's validity. The legislature's purpose to relieve perceived evils of land concentration was legitimately public, and the courts' inquiry need extend no further. Apart from issues of just compensation, the taking of property has virtually ceased to present a judicial question.

Kenneth L. Karst
(1986)