4. State Highway Comm’n v Vanderkloot

In its remand order, the Michigan Supreme Court also cited State Highway Comm’n v Vanderkloot, 392 Mich 159; 220 NW2d 416 (1974). In that case, a landowner challenged the Michigan State Highway Commission’s decision to take his property so that portions of US-24 could be improved or replaced. A statute allowed property owners to challenge as fraudulent or abusive the highway commission’s ruling that a particular taking was necessary.

The landowner claimed that there were insufficient legislative standards established to guide the highway commission in determining that a particular piece of property was necessary. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the necessity standard provided sufficient guidance. Id. at 170. Both the 1850 Constitution and the 1908 Constitution had required a necessity determination before a taking could be effectuated (the 1963 Constitution does not contain this requirement). The fact that this standard had been used for decades was significant in the Court’s view. Further, the Court noted that many other states were using the same standard, and that the necessity standard gave the Highway Commission the ability to adapt to changing conditions. The Court therefore determined that the Legislature had provided sufficient standards to guide the Highway Commission.

The Michigan Supreme Court then considered the landowner’s due-process challenge. Specifically, the landowner claimed that “necessity” did not provide sufficient guidance for the courts when they reviewed a taking challenge. The Michigan Supreme Court indicated that the trial courts should look at the takings petition, which was supposed to set out the Highway Commission’s purpose, and then determine whether the property in question was necessary for that purpose. In Vanderkloot, due to the procedural posture of the case, there were not sufficient facts in the record to make such a determination. The case was thus remanded to a lower court so that this determination could occur.

The due-process issue in Vanderkloot differs from the due-process issue in Westervelt. Westervelt involved a due-process challenge concerning safeguards for preventing an arbitrary decision by an agency, while Vanderkloot focused on whether a landowner could receive due process in the courts. To the extent that there are differences between the two rulings, the Michigan Supreme Court probably intended the Westervelt lead opinion’s framework to guide judicial review in the current case, since the Court specifically cited footnote 20 of the Westervelt lead opinion in the remand order.