Supreme Court Ruled on Cemetery Access Case

The Supreme Court of the United States released their ruling on Knick v Township of Scott, Pennsylvania. It is the case regarding a cemetery that is located on land owned by Rose Mary Knick in The Township of Scott, Pennsylvania. The court’s decision can affect genealogists who seek to visit cemeteries that are located on privately owned land.

This case challenged an ordinance passed by the Township of Scott in Pennsylvania. The ordinance authorizes officials to enter upon any property within the Township to determine the existence and location of any cemetery. It also compels property owners to hold their private cemeteries open to the public during daylight hours.

Robert Vail discovered in 2008 that an ancestor of his named Micah Vail was buried on the property that Rose Mary Knick now owns. Robert Vail believed that other family members may be buried in that cemetery as well. He wanted to visit the cemetery and honor them. Rose Mary Knick wanted her property to stay private.

The case also involved was the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

More specifically, it is about the part that says that no person “shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”. There was another question. Should property owners be required to exhaust state court remedies before taking federal claims?

The Supreme Court of the United States decided in favor of Mary Rose Knick, in a 5-4 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts. This means that plaintiffs will no longer have to file lawsuits in state and local courts before going to federal court. It also means that governments will have to pay in advance before invoking the Takings Clause.

Unfortunately for genealogists, this ruling could mean that more property owners will prohibit people from visiting private cemeteries that are on their land.

Related Articles on

Fight Over Cemetery Access Heard By U.S. Supreme Court

Things to Know if Your Home has a Cemetery on the Property

The Eradication of an Ancestor’s Cemetery

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