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Willowbrook, Village of v. Olech

Citation: 30 ELR 20360
No. No. 98-1288, 120 S. Ct. 1073/528 U.S. 562/(U.S., 02/23/2000)

The U.S. Supreme Court holds that a property owner who sought to have her property connected to a village's municipal water supply sufficiently stated a claim under the Equal Protection Clause against the village for conditioning its approval of the connection on her granting a 33-foot easement to the village. The Court first holds that the Equal Protection Clause gives rise to a cause of action on behalf of a "class of one" where the plaintiff did not allege membership in a class or group. The Court then holds that the owner's allegations are sufficient to state a claim for relief under traditional equal protection analysis. The owner's complaint can fairly be construed as alleging that the village intentionally demanded a 33-foot easement as a condition of connecting her property to the municipal water supply where the village required only a 15-foot easement from other similarly situated property owners. The complaint also alleged that the village's demand was "irrational and wholly arbitrary" and that the village ultimately connected her property after receiving a clearly adequate 15-foot easement. The Court, therefore, did not reach the alternative theory of "subjective ill will" that was relied on by the lower court.

Justice Breyer noted in a concurring opinion that the added factor of ill will found by the lower court minimizes any concerns about transforming run-of-the-mill zoning cases into constitutional disputes.

Counsel for Petitioners
James L. DeAno
Norton, Mancini, Argentati, Weiler & DeAno
109 N. Hale St., Wheaton IL 60189
(630) 668-9440

Counsel for Respondent
John R. Wimmer
Law Offices of John R. Wimmer
928 Warren Ave., Downers Grove IL 60515
(630) 810-0005

Breyer, J., concurring