and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

August 26, 2005

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

High court won't reconsider its eminent domain ruling
Justices' verdict in Conn. case drew heavy criticism
By Gina Holland

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court, given an opportunity to revisit a heavily criticized ruling, declined yesterday to reconsider its decision giving local governments more power to seize people's homes for economic development.

The court's 5-to-4 ruling in the eminent domain case in June was so contentious that some of the critics launched a campaign to seize Justice David H. Souter's farmhouse in New Hampshire to build a luxury hotel.

Others singled out Justice Stephen G. Breyer's vacation home in New Hampshire for use as a park.

Both Souter and Breyer voted on the prevailing side, in favor of such seizures. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who did not, criticized her colleagues at the time. She said in a minority opinion that the ruling favored the well-heeled.

In addition, legislators in about 25 states are considering softening the impact of their laws on eminent domain, a legal concept by which federal, state, or local authorities may force a private landowner to sell property at fair market value, in what the authorities deem to be the public interest. The eminent domain process is also known as condemnation.

Justices did not comment yesterday on their refusal to reconsider the case. Requests for reconsiderations are rarely granted.

O'Connor wrote in her dissent that "the specter of condemnation hangs over all property." It was one of her last opinions; she has decided to retire and President Bush has named Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to replace her.

Legal specialists had said they did not expect the court's ruling, involving an economic development project in New London, Conn., to prompt a government rush to claim homes.

Stevens said "the public outcry" that followed the ruling "is some evidence that the political process is up to the task of addressing such policy concerns."


The Associated Press
Friday, August 26, 2005

Eminent domain ruling spurs closer look at laws

HARTFORD, Conn. – Forty years ago, the town of Norwich took Rep. Steven Mikutel's family farm from his grandfather for a school that was never built.

Mikutel was one of dozens of people who spoke at a hearing yesterday about proposed changes to Connecticut's eminent domain laws in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said government can seize homes for private development projects.

"Too often they grab more land, more property, than they actually need," Mikutel said. Legislatures across the country are reviewing eminent domain laws after the court ruled New London can take homes for a private development project to increase its tax base.

University of Connecticut law professor Jeremy Paul suggested lawmakers simply make it more expensive to take a home rather than introducing new restrictions.

"That's a much more refined tool than attempting to put a straitjacket on municipalities all around the state," he said.

One bill would pay homeowners one-and-a-half times the fair market value. Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, defending the process, said, "Without broad eminent domain powers, cities would never be able to negotiate fairly with landowners who may wish to delay or stall the development."

The Telegram & Gazette
Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Telegram & Gazette editorial
Property protection
Limit land takings to legitimate ‘public use’

The Supreme Court’s refusal this week to reconsider its ruling that drastically expanded government’s eminent-domain powers should spur state lawmakers to take corrective action.

The June 23 court ruling in Kelo v. New London flies in the face of the Fifth Amendment, which historically has allowed taking of private property for “public use” such as highways, parks or, in recent decades, cleanup of blighted urban wastelands. The ruling stretched “public use” to allow takings for private development, even when the sole public interest is to generate more tax revenue.

The effect of the ruling was minimal in at least eight states that had laws on the books banning use of eminent-domain land takings for private economic development. Since June, Alabama and Delaware have enacted laws to curb the impact of the decision.

In addition, at least 25 other states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, have launched initiatives to curb the powers of eminent domain.

In Massachusetts, where use of eminent domain is only loosely restricted, support in the Legislature is growing for reform. The House has approved a nonbinding resolution opposing the Supreme Court decision, and a proposal by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. has 47 co-sponsors in the Legislature. In essence, the proposal — which could be enacted as a statute or, through a cumbersome process, as a constitutional amendment — would allow eminent domain takings only when necessary to further a public use and bar takings strictly for economic development, excepting the taking of blighted property.

The only overt dissent has come from the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which lobbies for cities and towns. The opposition is misguided. Although the proposals would indeed put limits on the use of eminent domain, they would not bar takings for legitimate public uses.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in the Kelo decision, acknowledged that states may limit eminent domain powers via their own statutes or constitutions.

The Legislature should take that acknowledgment to heart and enact statutory curbs on the Kelo decision.

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