Goldblatt v. Town of Hempstead

RESPONDENT: Town of Hempstead
LOCATION: Nassau County District Court

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)

CITATION: 369 US 590 (1962)
ARGUED: Jan 15, 1962 / Jan 16, 1962
DECIDED: May 14, 1962

Milton I. Newman - For the Appellant
William C. Mattison - For the Appellee

Facts of the case

Herbert Goldblatt owned 38 acres of land within the Town of Hempstead (town) and often used the land for his business of mining sand and gravel. During excavation, water filled the crater, which widened and deepened. The town expanded around the excavation and later enacted a series of ordinances to regulate mining excavation within its limits. In 1958, the town amended an ordinance to prohibit excavation below the water table and impose a duty refill any excavation currently below the level. In 1959, the town sued Goldblatt for not complying with the ordinance. Goldblatt argued the ordinance is unconstitutional because it was not regulatory but rather represented the town confiscating his property without compensation. The Court of Appeals of New York held for the Town of Hempstead, allowing them to enforce the prohibition and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision.


Do regulatory ordinances that result in taking land that was previously used for purposes of profit violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Goldblatt v. Town of Hempstead

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1962 in Goldblatt v. Town of Hempstead

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 16, 1962 in Goldblatt v. Town of Hempstead

Earl Warren:

Goldblatt et al, Appellants, versus Town of Hempstead.

Mr. Mattison, you may continue your arguments.

William C. Mattison:

Mr. Chief Justice Warren, may it please the Court.

As the Court recessed yesterday, I had been addressing myself to the refill provision, particularly in response to questions addressed to me by Mr. Justice Whittaker.

I stated that Section 4 (a) of the ordinance requires refill, 4 (j).

And I state also today that in addition to that reclaimant of refill there are criminal sanctions.

Now, I would state emphatically this morning to the Court as we have in the briefs that neither the refill provision nor the criminal sanctions is before the Court.

The judgment before the Court contains no affirmative mandate with respect to refill and it is true that the question would become a right one were the appellants to endeavor to utilize the remaining 18 acres of land.

John M. Harlan II:

I couldn't find the judgment of the Supreme Court (Inaudible)

William C. Mattison:

It's on page 12, if my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Justice Harlan.

Now, if the -- if the appellants consistent with their argument that there is nothing left to excavate on the 18 acres, do not endeavor to mine there, then plainly there is no reclaimant so far as this judgment is concerned that they refill.

The refill provision we urge is a sensible one particularly so far as new pits are concerned.

It was calculated to guarantee that when deep excavations in the ground be made, those excavations be on the abandonment of the excavation return to (Inaudible)

This has the -- obvious and at one statutory purpose of eliminating the remaining deep pits in the ground.

We say that its sensible even here and as I urged yesterday that while at first blush, it may be a harsh reclaimant.

If it be complied with, nonetheless, there would be a very substantial value far in excess of the cost of refill once the provision had been complied with.

The Court may say indeed now that this is an oppressive, an oppressive -- or onerous reclaimant.

If it is, I point to Section 11 of the ordinance which contains a separability provision.

And I respectfully urged that should the Court reach the conclusion that refill constitutes an oppressive reclaimant that the ordinance be saved within the cases we've cited in our brief.

I -- also before the conclusion of my argument had endeavored to address myself to a question which Mr. Justice Stewart asked me when he asked if the pit was here before the community was urbanized.

And I answered correctly that the pit was in fact there.

While it was there, it was there as the record shows that -- Mr. Justice Stewart, as a small excavation with some wood surely in 1930 not as -- has been urged as a 20-acre-lake with an average depth of 25 feet.

The point is that as Nassau County and particularly this township grew from 1929 to the most populous town in America today.

The community grew with it.

Potter Stewart:

The most populous town in America?

William C. Mattison:

There are statistics which --

Potter Stewart:

Most densely, so?

William C. Mattison:

No, the most populated, if Your Honor please.

The population in excess of 1,000,000 people in -- in this township.

Potter Stewart:

The most populous town (Voice Overlap) --