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 Telegram & Gazette
Sunday, August 28, 2005
A Telegram & Gazette editorial
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
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
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
Justice John Paul Stevens, in the Kelo decision, acknowledged that
states may limit eminent domain powers via their own statutes or
The Legislature should take that acknowledgment to heart and enact
statutory curbs on the Kelo decision.