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Thread: Supreme Court Backs Eminent Domain

  1. #1
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    Default Supreme Court Backs Eminent Domain

    Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

    Jun 23, 1:12 PM (ET)

    By HOPE YEN

    WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

    The 5-4 ruling - assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America - was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

    As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

    The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Among those still pending for the court, which next meets on Monday, is one testing the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commands on government property.

    Writing for the court's majority in Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

    "The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote.

    Stevens was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing - David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. The bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects that benefit the lower and middle class.

    They were joined by Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy in rejecting the conservative principle of individual property rights. Critics had feared that would allow a small group of homeowners to stymie rebuilding efforts that benefit the city through added jobs and more tax revenue for social programs.

    "It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," Stevens wrote.

    O'Connor argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

    "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

    Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

    "It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

    Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."

    At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

    Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

    New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

    Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, a former mayor and city council member who voted in favor of eminent domain, said the decision "means a lot for New London's future."

    The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

    Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

    New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs.

    City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

    New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

    Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

    The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.

    ---

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

    The ruling in Kelo v. New London is available at:

    http://wid.ap.org/documents/scotus/050623kelo.pdf

  2. #2
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Heard about this on another site.


    the debate is whether or not the few that do not want to give up their housing in a depressed run-down area are entitled to stay there despite the ill effects of not being able to proceed with urban center renewal.

    Nost of the people there took their offers for houses few wanted to buy and that was that. But some are stubborn.

    Do they have a right to do this? If an area NEEDS redevelopment to make it viable again, SHOULD the government be able to step in and pay them out?

  3. #3

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    Hotels, retail stores and other private business are most certainly not for "public use".

  4. #4
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    But now the Supremes have expanded "Public Use" to the broader "Public Good" ... how vague is that?

    I was having a discussion about this very thing with my attorney today. I'm in the process of negotiating a lease and had a question about the eminent domain clause -- and thought I had my questions answered. Now this could seemingly change that.

    Ahhhh, more attorney's fees ...........

  5. #5

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    Well...you could make the case that building a Wal Mart is "for the public good."
    Let's say that those corporatistas down in Bettonville decide to plop one of their stores in your town. Your house and back yard are needed in order to create a 500-car mega parking lot. You refuse, but town officials step in, and argue that because Wal Mart offers cheaper goods than the other stores, it will lead to a lot of purchases, and in turn more tax revenue that can be used to help the town. But in reality, they are just helping to put up another store that hires people for minimum wage and no health-care (forcing you, the tax-payer to pay for their welfare and emergancy needs). Why should a town have the right to take your house just to build another Wal Mart? This ruling will only benefit corporations and screw the prinicipal of private property. Condemning people's land for parks and highways is one thing (and skyscrapers and stadiums are a gray area, considering Manhattan's density and the lack of open space) because those things WILL benefit the public, but condemning property to give money to private entities is wrong.

  6. #6

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    America`s public enemy No. One: The SCOTUS !

    If you think the SCOTUS is not Americas most formidable domestic enemy, and that a number of its members are not using their office of public trust to advance the fortunes of the rich and powerful, I suggest you study the following opinion: KELO et al. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON et al.


    Justice O'Connor sums up the tyranny of the majority in the following words:


    Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.

    Also see the dissenting opinion of Justice Thomas:

    Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that "the law of the land ... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property." 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134-135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for "public necessity," but instead for "public use." Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a " '[P]ublic [P]urpose' " Clause, ante, at 9-10 (or perhaps the "Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society" Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is "legitimate" and the means "not irrational," ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a "public use."

    I cannot agree. If such "economic development" takings are for a "public use," any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O'Connor powerfully argues in dissent. Ante, at 1-2, 8-13. I do not believe that this Court can eliminate liberties expressly enumerated in the Constitution and therefore join her dissenting opinion. Regrettably, however, the Court's error runs deeper than this. Today's decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood, is a meaningful limit on the government's eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause's original meaning, and I would reconsider them.


    JWK
    ACRS

    The servant has become the master over those who created a servant.

  7. #7

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    In my opinion it means the Nets move to Brooklyn is a lock now - Most important thing to happen to Brooklyn development in 50 years.

  8. #8

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    With this as a precedent I don't see any reason why all tax exempt church and university property shouldn't be siezed and returned to the tax base as "...an economic development plan that [a city] believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue..."

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Theoretically, this opens things up to all sorts of seizures.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in NYC, as each attempt at "taking" will have to go through Community Boards and various other agencies.

    The lawyers must be salivating... all those new billable hours!!

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    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    OK, to argue the other side, what if this is the case:

    What if your town has not had any commercial development in 20 years?

    What if your town is in debt because of budget problems and delinquent tax collection?

    What if your town does not have enough money to provide things like schooling or police protection that would encourage people to come in.

    What if your town had an opportunity to get a Merc research facility (no, no chemical waste, so don't go on a tangent) and not a "Wal Mart parking lot".

    What if the values offered for your building were 150%-250% greater than appraised value?

    Lemme give you some info from a friend on another site, see if the stuff goes through here:

    Originally posted by -Gemini-

    Hedge,

    Some golf shows were on and the 5pm news was kicked back to 6pm. I'll try to record a noon time news program this time.


    I was however able to track down some photos from google (after about 3hours of searching...uhhh)












    In case people were wondering cost/per house for some of the individuals who did not want to see, it was also in this mornings paper:


    [align=center]Address - Appraised - Purchase - %of appraised value
    [/align]


    [align=center]24 Fraser St - $74,500 - $127,000 - 170.47%
    [/align]


    [align=center]28 Fraser St - $72,300 - $109,000 - 150.76%
    [/align]


    [align=center]33 Twelfth St - $56,400 - $106,500 - 188.83%
    [/align]


    [align=center]34 Twelfth St - $19,100 - $35,000 - 183.25%
    [/align]


    [align=center]74 Tenth St - $53,300 - $117,000 - 219.51%
    [/align]


    [align=center]75 Tenth St - $77,200 - $118,000 - 152.85%
    [/align]


    [align=center]78 Tenth St - $67,100 - $94,000 - 140.09%
    [/align]


    [align=center]29 Eighth St - $48,300 - $123,000 - 254.66%
    [/align]


    [align=center]39 Twelfth St - $65,500 - $119,000 - 182.68%[/align]
    [align=center][/align]
    [align=center][size=xx-small][cleaned up chart for legibility -s][/size][/align]

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schadenfrau
    Hotels, retail stores and other private business are most certainly not for "public use".


    What is most alarming about this transfer of an American family`s property by government to a private profit making business entity is that the business entity, Pfizer Inc, is a internationally owned business operation with ``investors`` who are not even American citizens!

    In other words, the force of America`s government is now being used to take the property of American citizens and hand it over to foreign financiers and investors!

    But heck, the writing was on the wall when the Stupid American allowed government to transfer the power of regulating Americas money to a private banking institution called the federal reserve. As Thomas Jefferson correctly warned:

    ``If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, (i.e., the "business cycle") the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.``

    Unfortunately, not one in ten thousand Americans understand how the federal reserve system, a private banking institution, is plundering the nation and picking the peoples pockets.

    ``History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance``, said James Madison

    And, Jefferson further wrote: ``I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.``

    Indeed, our founding fathers did in fact provide protection against such abuse when they authorize Congress, and only Congress, to coin our nation`s money and regulate the value thereof, and intentionally forbid a private banking institutions` notes to be made a legal tender.

    JWK
    ACRS

    ``As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of darkness.``___Supreme Court Justice William Douglas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jasonik
    With this as a precedent I don't see any reason why all tax exempt church and university property shouldn't be siezed and returned to the tax base as "...an economic development plan that [a city] believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue..."
    Right on! God knows that I need one more Duane Reade around the corner and he wishes to sacrifice something more valued that his son - REAL ESTATE - to fulfill the prophetic vision. I mean, you can really pray anywhere, but, when it comes time to buy a pantyshield, the confessional becomes useless.

  13. #13

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    I think alot of people are simplu overacting to this verdict. In my opinion, this verdict simply affirms the rights of communities to develop areas which are blighted or not of much public use. Yes, while the argument can be made that cities are now able to buldoze low income houses for rich town houses, another equally compelling argument can be made. What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city? The court did not pave the way for any paticular action, rather it left the powers of eminent domain to our elected officials. Officials, can now use their judgement, according to how they see fit. These elected officials will be kept in check by votes, if the power of eminent domain is abused then people will retaliate. The bottom line is.. all the judgment said is talk to your local officials not us... .

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmonkey
    ...What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city?
    As a matter of fact, the answer is "yes". It is easy to sit there and make the theoretical statements, but, when they are coming for your house, you'll be sorry you didn't back other people up.

    This ruling opens the door for the use of "discretion" by government entities. I know of no government official or entity that shows an ounce of it. We are in a society where money speaks and the more money you have the more your voice is heard. This is an absolute attack on small property owners and escalates the subversive class warfare already underway through our tax system revisions.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmonkey
    I think alot of people are simplu overacting to this verdict. In my opinion, this verdict simply affirms the rights of communities to develop areas which are blighted or not of much public use. Yes, while the argument can be made that cities are now able to buldoze low income houses for rich town houses, another equally compelling argument can be made. What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city? The court did not pave the way for any paticular action, rather it left the powers of eminent domain to our elected officials. Officials, can now use their judgement, according to how they see fit. These elected officials will be kept in check by votes, if the power of eminent domain is abused then people will retaliate. The bottom line is.. all the judgment said is talk to your local officials not us... .
    Excellent post. Couldn't have said it better myself. Simply a reaffirmation of the way things have gone for a century. A change in this ruling could have stopped the Nets arena.

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