Supreme Court takes eminent domain case
Can cities take your property for economic development?
Tuesday, September 28, 2004 Posted: 12:54 PM EDT (1654 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide when governments may seize people's homes and businesses for economic development projects, a key question as cash-strapped cities seek ways to generate tax revenue.
At issue is the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain, provided the owner is given "just compensation" and the land is for "public use."
Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut, filed a lawsuit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes to clear the way for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. The residents refused to budge, arguing it was an unjustified taking of their property.
They argued the taking would be proper only if it served to revitalize slums or blighted areas dangerous to the public.
"I'm not willing to give up what I have just because someone else can generate more taxes here," said homeowner Matthew Dery, whose family has lived in the neighborhood known as Fort Trumbull for more than 100 years.
New London contends the condemnations are proper because the development plans serving a "public purpose" -- such as boosting economic growth -- are valid "public use" projects that outweigh the property rights of the homeowners.
The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with New London, ruling 4-3 in March that the mere promise of additional tax revenue justified the condemnation.
Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned between 1998 and 2002, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.
In many cases, according to the group, cities are pushing the limits of their power to accommodate wealthy developers. Courts, meanwhile, are divided over the extent of city power, with seven states saying economic development can justify a taking and eight states allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.
In New London, city officials envision replacing a stagnant enclave with commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.
"The record is clear that New London was a city desperate for economic rejuvenation," the city's legal filing states, in asking the high court to defer to local governments in deciding what constitutes "public use."
According to the residents' filing, the seven states that allow condemnations for private business development alone are Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and North Dakota.
Eight states forbid the use of eminent domain when the economic purpose is not to eliminate blight; they are Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington.
Another three -- Delaware, New Hampshire and Massachusetts -- have indicated they probably will find condemnations for economic development alone unconstitutional, while the remaining states have not addressed or spoken clearly to the question.
In other action Tuesday, the high court agreed to hear an appeal involving an amateur radio operator who says the city of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, unjustly denied him a permit to use a radio antenna for commercial purposes.
At issue is whether the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides for money damages from city officials in cases of violations, or simply a court order requiring the city's compliance. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the radio operator was entitled to compensation.
The case is City of Rancho Palos Verdes et al v. Abrams, 03-1601.
This is something that has been bothering me for sometime. Wanna bet that they rule in favor of the government?
someone needs to be reminded of why the 2nd amendment exists.
I'm glad they are hearing the case. I'd be interested to see how they rule. This could be one more nail in the coffin of American Liberty...
I've gotten the impression that the Supremes have been avoiding taking on Second Amendment cases just because they fear the consequences of ruling either way-say gun owners revolting or Bren guns for sale at Wal-Mart.
I lived right by there when this stuff all started, they even raised property taxes to rates that the owners could not afford to pay. IIRC one home owner had their taxes raised to $16,000 a year.
It is insane in that area, of course there is no more land to be had, the existing land has been occupied for as long as 350+ years.
But the local and state government is out of control, one of the many reasons I got out of there shortly after getting there.
Beautiful country there though....
I am also interested in hearing how this plays out. There was a guy in my city who bought a piece of property in a high flow area that had been vacant and an eyesore for several years. He put about $1 million into renovating the place; he put in a cigar/smoking coffee bar and investing in some high power ventilators so that non-smokers could also go in and never be bothered by smoke. High tech humidor, makes their own brand of cigar right in the shop. Once it was all done a developer who wanted to build a hotel there tried to buy it from him; he said no. That was a year or so ago. Guess what? The local government here has now used eminent domain to take his property and guess who they gave it to? The same damn developer for his hotel. Guess what this hotel is now saying it will have? A high tech cigar/smoking coffee bar. hmmmmm.....coincidence?
Our "public servants" certainly have.