Anoka County, Minnesota

Bronczyk v. State of Minnesota
Bogged Down in Minnesota's Regulatory Swamp 

The Institute for Justice represented siblings and semi-retired farmers John and Josephine Bronczyk in its attempt to defend the right of Minnesota property owners to exclude outsiders from their property. In this case, we sought to force the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to make sense of a confusing and contradictory mess of wetlands regulation that labeled 104 out of 160 acres of the Bronczyks' property "public waters," although it is neither public nor water. There was a public road next to the "public water," and this was interpreted to mean that the public can use most of the Bronczyks' property. The Bronczyks asked for a declaration from the court stating either that they may exclude or that their property has been taken without just compensation.

On February 13, 1996, the Anoka County Court entered summary judgment in favor of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The court spoke favorably about property rights and suggested that the Bronczyks would be justified in excluding others from the parts of their "public water" that are not submerged under water. Unfortunately, the court also held that the case was "not justiciable." Because the DNR made so many concessions about the Bronczyks' right to exclude during the course of the litigation, the court found that there was not a true controversy and that it was being asked to give an advisory opinion. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed. Although it held that the case was not justiciable, it also held that "the public has no right of access" to any land not covered by water.

One of the worst aspects of property regulations in the welfare state is that the laws and rules are so confusing that no one can understand them. At the same time, the penalties for violating the rules are becoming harsher. Thus, while the statutes put the Bronczyks’ right to exclude into doubt, they also face criminal penalties for excluding hunters or other outdoor enthusiasts from areas to which they have legal access, including coming within 200 yards of their home. The right to exclude others from one's property is the essence of private ownership, yet government bureaucrats seem to believe that any perceived need for regulation suffices as a reason to violate this fundamental right. The Bronczyks have since passed away.

Essential Background


Background on this case

Client Photo - none available

Release: Institute for Justice Lauds Decision Allowing Landowners to Exclude Trespassers From "Public Waters Wetlands" (February 5, 1996)

Client Video - none available


Legal Briefs and Decisions

Release: Lake Woe, Be Gone: Minnesotans Seek Private Property Protection (December 19, 1994)

none available

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


December 19, 1994

Court Filed:


District Court for the 10th District of Minnesota



December 4, 1996: Minnesota Court of Appeals denies appeal



February 5, 1996:  Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted



Case Completed

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

none available

MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development


IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain






Op-eds, News Articles and Links



Article: Private Property vs. Public Rights (February 6, 1995)

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