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UNITED STATES V. MERZ, 376 U. S. 192 (1964)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Merz, 376 U.S. 192 (1964)

United States v. Merz

No. 65

Argued January 13-14, 1964

Decided February 24, 1964*

376 U.S. 192


Under Rule 71A(h) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Commissions were appointed by district courts to determine the issue of just compensation in eminent domain proceedings. Following hearings, reports were filed by the Commissioners, which the District Court adopted in each instance, though the reports did not disclose the basis on which the awards were reached. One Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the awards well within the range of conflicting testimony despite a sharp evidentiary conflict as to the amount of damages. The other Court of Appeals remanded for resubmission to the Commissioners, since the reports did not indicate which evidence they credited; the degree to which the awards were based on the testimony of comparable sales (or whether the sales were, in fact, comparable); nor to what extent the awards depended on opinions of nonexpert witnesses.


1. The basis of ultimate findings of value in an eminent domain proceeding must be clearly disclosed in the report of a commission appointed under Rule 71A(h), conclusory findings alone being insufficient for proper judicial review. Pp. 376 U. S. 193-200.

2. Where a commission is appointed under Rule 71A(h), careful procedures must be observed to ensure that it acts as a deliberative body applying constitutional standards. Pp. 376 U. S. 197-200.

(a) The District Court should carefully instruct the commissioners on the law, qualifications of expert witnesses, evidence, the manner and method of conducting the hearing, and the kind of report to be filed. Pp. 376 U. S. 198-199.

(b) The parties should state their objections to the instructions and to the report in timely and specific form. P. 376 U. S. 199.

Page 376 U. S. 193

(c) The District Court may then adopt the report, modify it on the basis of the record, reject it in whole or in part, receive further evidence, or recommit it with instructions, all as provided in Rule 53(e)(2). Pp. 376 U. S. 199-200.

306 F.2d 39 reversed; 310 F.2d 775 modified and remanded.

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