Derived from ancient Justinian and English common law, the “public trust doctrine” vests ultimate and inalienable ownership of certain tracts of land in the state. Many states have incorporated some variation of the public trust doctrine into their statutes, constitutions, or common law. The application of the public trust doctrine, however, has been challenged as constituting a Fifth Amendment regulatory taking of private property under the United States Constitution, giving rise to the need for just compensation. This type of application of the public trust doctrine was at issue in the nearly decade-long saga culminating in the decision of Palazzolo v. State. The case featured an owner of marshland property who sought compensation for Rhode Island’s denial of his repeated development requests. The Rhode Island Superior Court in Palazzolo ultimately held that the state’s denial of the landowner’s requests did not constitute a regulatory taking. This Comment analyzes the role that the public trust doctrine played in the court’s weighing of the various factors in a regulatory takings analysis. Further, this Comment argues that the public trust doctrine, as applied in Palazzolo, represents a tremendously powerful means for states to set aside publically valuable swaths of land, a means capable of withstanding even a constitutional challenge.
Eric J. Risley Jr.,
Caveat Emptor: How the Public Trust Doctrine Impacts the Penn Central Test and a Beachfront Landowner’s “Bundle of Rights”,
B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev.
E. Supp. 26