Eminent Domain in New London: Capitalism vs Personal Protections

In a case currently before the Supremes, Kelo v City of New London, there is a dispute as to whether government can take private property, citing “eminent domain” in order to spur economic development. One side sees this as a way to make the area a nicer neighborhood, via development, while the other sees it as a perversion of eminent domain to make a land grab.

Who is correct here? What is the Republican or Democrat stance on this? I’d always understood eminent domain to be used for right of way, or major projects for the public good, for example an interstate through part of town or a new water treatment facility. Is this different?

It is my understanding that recent court rulings have said that an increase in the tax base may be considered “in the public good.”

This scares the hell out of me. If I don’t want to sell to a developer, instead of them trying to find another piece of land, they can just go to the county gov’t and get them to condemn my property.

It’s happening in Alabaster, Alabama, with Wal-Mart. There’s a law pending in Georgia where negotiations with developers can be kept secret.

It is most definitely different, because the land is being condemned only because the homeowners will not sell to a private developer. The county is getting involved in what should be a purely private matter. They’re not trying to build a new school or a road. Pfizer can’t get the property owners to sell to them, so they asked New London to take the land. If we have no private property rights, then our society is doomed, I fear.

I live near some orange groves. Those orange groves have been sold to a developer to build multi-million dollar homes. My home is not a multi-million dollar home. How soon before they start to eye our little cul-de-sac?

If you think about it, this is a prime example of the rich vs. the poor. The poor are being squeezed out in favor of the rich.

We can only hope SCOTUS rules in favor of Kelo, otherwise no one’s property will be safe. The days of investing in real estate will be over. You will be forced to sell, whether you want to or not, fair market value regardless. What if you absolutely don’t want to move? Too f—ing bad. Move. We want your land.

I plan on writing my local government representatives about this.

Listening to NPR yesterday, the reporter was saying this is extremely common, which I found astounding and a bit frightening. Any kind of commercial development will almost always increase the tax base, so this argument can almost never lose.

It’s one thing for E.D. to make way for public facilities, but this case seems more like a private development. Rich guy gets to declare poor guy’s home “condemned” in order to take over poor guy’s waterfront property.

I’m hoping one of our resident lawyers will shed some light on this case.

Methinks there is no ‘Democratic’ nor ‘Republican’ position here.

Libertarian Republicans (as opposed to Big Business Republicans) would be opposed. Same for anti-establishment Democrats (as opposed to Government is your Friend Democrats).

This seems to have gone too far. As The Economist pointed out in this week’s issue, what is to keep local governments from deciding they do not like megastores and buying up the local WalMart to convert to a place where baby seals can live in peace?

It muddles property rights, and that is not good for anyone.

I heard on the radio that the attorney representing New London, was asked if it was acceptable for the gov’t to condemn a Motel 6 so a Ritz Carlton could be built.

He said yes. :eek:

As well it should. Such a sweeping attack on private property rights is a threat to the stability of the Republic.

How to find your representatives:



Of course, you will need to search for your home state to find your local reps.

If you’re drawing up “sides”, you should know that at least two major opinion journals of the Right, National Review and the American Spectator, have printed articles comdemning this abuse of eminent domain.

I comdemn it as well, and strongly support efforts to rein in the practice.

Wow, is this going to be one of those things that practically everybody agrees is a really bad idea, yet there is no way to stop it? Or is it a matter of just tightening some existing laws? Have Bush Co or Congressional leaders made any comments on this?

Why would they? This is something that’s being done on the local level, by city and county governments. It’s only now getting national attention before it’s before SCOTUS.

I somehow doubt that the White House is going to see this as a bad thing considering the ED hanky-panky that went on when the Texas Rangers (under George W’s management) wanted a new stadium.

I’m a lawyer but I can’t help. Never heard of a case like this one, not even in law school property-law class. Seems to be an issue of first impression, which is why it’s going to the SCOTUS. I’m generally hostile to the “property rights movement” (an economic-libertarian movement which seeks to ban all public regulations on the use of private property, including growth-management plans and environmental-protection rules – and ultimately all taxation! – as uncompensated “takings” under the Fifth Amendment – see http://www.smartgrowth.org/news/article.asp?art=3507&state=23&res=1024; http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-404es.html). But in this kind of situation, where the only “public good” sought is an enhanced tax base – I just hope Kelo wins it.

I heard this on NPR, also, along with Nina Tottenberg’s qouting of the SCOTUS as they listened to the arguments.

This is horrible.

I think these people are gonna lose their homes.
How is this possible? that a private “developement” is more in the public good than a neighborhood? I don’t know of any Dems (and I have only polled my friends) that think this is a good idea.

I don’t see how anyone can think this is a good idea. Yes, New London needs money–but ruining a community for the greater good is the answer?

Surely there are other things that can be done–that don’t make one developer richer at the expense of these people’s homes.

I, too, thought that Emminent Domain was intended for things like interstates or flood reclamation areas.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard that lawyer say “yes” to the Ritz Carlton query!
:eek: :frowning:

Spoke too soon – there is some precedent for this and it favors the City of New London’s position. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_domain:

I should have remembered the Poletown case – we did study in property-law class.

Well, look at it this way: If the SCOTUS rules this is something government can lawfully do, then it doesn’t mean homeowners are utterly defeated and at government’s mercy whenever it decides better use could be made of their property. Instead, it becomes an issue that has to be fought in the political arena rather than the courts. All local governments are elected. Getting them to respect homeowners’ rights would be a matter of political organizing.

I recall the Poletown case, as it’s been cited before, now and again. The question remains, therefore, why does the Supreme Court want to take this case?

I should point out that I do really wish Jefferson’s original “Life, Liberty and Property” had been left in, at times like this. This is an important question, as corporations gain more control over cities, and as cities merge and grow. It is even more important as the Wal-Martization of America continues… I’ve heard horror stories, time and again, over eminent domain and Wal-Mart.

It is, at heart, a fairly unamerican concept, that the land you own truly belongs to the government. But do you think it will stand or fall?

Read the Wikipedia excerpt – the definition of “public use” established in the Poletown case was overturned in Michigan in 2004, but meanwhile case law relying on that definition has developed in other states. IOW, there is a split of authority on this issue and only SCOTUS can resolve it.

“Left in?” what? Did the first draft of the Declaration of Independence say “property” instead of “the pursuit of happiness”? (I know John Locke said, "life, liberty and property.) In any case, the DOI is not the Constitution and has no legal relevance in deciding any constitutional issue.

What Paul in Saudi said. I believe the modern American conservative coalition is beginning to show signs of breaking up along its natural fault lines, and this is the kind of issue that will accelerate the process; it will separate the big-business-interest conservatives from the economic-libertarian conservatives. (The isolationist paleoconservatives are already starting to pack up and leave the Big Tent – e.g., Pat Buchanan and the America First Party; and they would definitely come down on the libertarian side, here.)

I am against the City of New London’s taking of property, but I think the Supreme Court will find the taking valid. Last year I lived in the City of Lakewood, Ohio, which narrowly defeated such a proposed taking of property by a city-wide referendum. The Lakewood story gained some fame because it was on “60 Minutes.”

FWIW, (and that’s not much) I am also against eminent domain to take private property for professional sports stadiums, since such teams are much more private than publicly owned. Stadium takings of private land for have been allowed for a long time.

On checking further, Jefferson is the one who changed it. That’ll teach me to pull odd facts off the top of my head. And I know the DoI doesn’t have any legal weight. I was ruminating on libertarian philosophy, as much as anything. Didn’t know Poletown had been overturned. So, you think that’s why the Supremes are taking it? Hm. So, if we break it down along the individual judges, who do you think would vote which way?