Thursday, June 23, 2005

Too Much Government!!!

I haven't been able to write in awhile due to a recent move. I hope to re-establish an internet connection and continue posting on a regular basis sometime in the near future. In the meantime...I couldn't pass this one up!

I thought one of the great "rights" of America is for the people to be able to own property without government infringement. The protection of private property is a very important right, and it received a shocking blow by the Supreme Court today. In yet another "slap to the face" of our Constitution, money spoke and judicial legislation led to a 5-4 ruling (Kelo et al v. City of New London) in favor of government's ability to seize private property for economic reasons. aka...If you want to increase tax revenue...seize peoples homes, bulldoze them, and give the land to large private developers. Does anyone else feel sick?

Read on...

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 23, 2005; 8:33 PM

WASHINGTON -- Cities may bulldoze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, a divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday, giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the decision bowed to the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The 5-4 decision means that homeowners will have more limited rights. Still, legal experts said they didn't expect a rush to claim homes.

"The message of the case to cities is yes, you can use eminent domain, but you better be careful and conduct hearings," said Thomas Merrill, a Columbia law professor specializing in property rights.

The closely watched case involving New London, Conn., homeowners was one of six decisions issued Thursday as the court neared the end of its term. The justices are scheduled to release their final six rulings, including one on the constitutionality of Ten Commandments displays on public property, on Monday.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use, since the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government," Stevens wrote, adding that local officials are better positioned than federal judges to decide what's best for a community.

He was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing _ David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, as well as Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy, in noting that states are free to pass additional protections if they see fit.

The four-member liberal bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects.

At least eight states _ Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington _ forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow a taking for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly to the question.

In dissent, O'Connor criticized the majority for abandoning the conservative principle of individual property rights and handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled.

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," O'Connor wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Connecticut resident Susette Kelo and others in the lawsuit pledged to continue their fight. 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.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would keep fighting the bulldozers in his working-class neighborhood. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

But Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, who as a city council member approved the development, said, "I am charged with doing what's best for the 26,000 people that live in New London. That to me was enacting the eminent domain process designed to revitalize a city ... with nowhere to go."

New London once was a center for 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 including a riverfront hotel, health club and offices 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.

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

1 comment:

B2 said...\Nation\archive\200506\NAT20050624a.html

Eminent Domain Ruling Labeled 'a Horrible Precedent'

By Monisha Bansal

June 24, 2005

A spokesman for the Libertarian Party of Connecticut Thursday accused the U.S. Supreme Court of setting "a horrible precedent" in siding with local governments that seize property for the so-called "public good." Kenneth Gordon called it a "sad day in American history."

The high court's ruling on eminent domain "now allows government to be in cahoots with business to steal property from private owners to give essentially to the highest bidders," said Gordon, the communications director for the Libertarian Party of Connecticut. "It's crossing a line that I hoped we never were going to cross," he told Cybercast News Service.

In a 5-4 decision, the court allowed governments to take private property against the owners' consent through eminent domain so long as the owners receive fair compensation.

"Just as we decline to second-guess the City's considered judgments about the efficacy of its development plan, we also decline to second-guess the City's determinations as to what lands it needs to acquire in order to effectuate the project," stated Justice John Paul Stevens in the majority opinion.

Suzette Kelo and several other homeowners in New London, Conn., sued the city after it announced plans to replace their homes with a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. The development was part of a plan to draw tourists to the Thames riverfront adjoining a Pfizer pharmaceutical corporation research center.

Stevens pointed out that "the [New London Development Corporation] intended the development plan to capitalize on the arrival of the Pfizer facility and the new commerce it was expected to attract." This was designed, he wrote, "to make the City more attractive and create leisure and recreational opportunities."

But Gordon, from the Libertarian Party, asserted that "the political thugs" had won as a result of the Supreme Court's verdict.

"The deepest pockets will be able to pull the political strings to take over any neighborhoods or any pieces of property they may want. Eminent domain is not corporatism; it was intended to build highways and railroads, things that were usable by the entire public, for the public good, not for individual corporate profits. I'd hate to think what comes next," said Gordon.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the dissenting opinion, arguing that as a result of the majority ruling, "any property may now be taken for the benefit of another party." She also warned that "the fallout from this decision will not be random.

"The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms," O'Connor wrote.

The National League of Cities supported New London in the case, and hailed the decision as one of the "most effective tools for ensuring economic development."

"It's important to note that the Court did not expand the power, but reaffirmed its current use, which has been indispensable for revitalizing local economies, creating much-needed jobs, and generating revenue that enables cities to provide essential services," said Anthony A. Williams, president of the National League of Cities and mayor of Washington, D.C.

"With cities and towns facing ever-shrinking resources, we need all the help we can to redevelop our neighborhoods and provide jobs for our citizens," Williams added.