Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Institute for Justice takes a step forward

The Institute for Justice has some good news about a case it is fighting against Connecticut. In Connecticut, the city government of New London wants to condemn private homes and sell the land to businesses to obtain a larger tax revenue from the commericial use. But the US Constitution and the Constitution of every state allows eminent domain (condemnation power) for public use, not a preferred private use.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Wayne County couldn't seize private land and convert it to a technology business park. The Wayne County ruling overturned the Michigan Supreme Court's 1981 landmark Poletown case in which the Michigan Supreme Court allowed GM to obtain the acreage to build a factory through the city's condemnation of private lands. The Connecticut case relied upon Poletown.

Here is the IJ press release:

September 28, 2004

U.S. Supreme Court Accepts Review
Of New London Eminent Domain Abuse Case

Washington, D.C.-Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case of Kelo v. City of New London and decide whether the Constitution allows the government to use eminent domain to take one person's home or small business so a bigger business can make more money off that land and pay more taxes as a result.

"We and the New London homeowners are thrilled that the Court has taken up this case and we are confident that it will find, as we have argued all along, that New London violated the U.S. Constitution when it tried to take these homes," said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice.

Dana Berliner, an Institute for Justice senior attorney, explained, "If jobs and taxes can be a justification for taking someone's home or business, then no property in America is safe because anyone's home can create more jobs if it is replaced by a business and any small business can generate greater taxes if replaced by a bigger one. We have to restore the meaning of public use to what everyone once understood the term to mean--something the public would own and use, such as a road. Economic development is not a public use."

* * *

In the last few years, the tide has shifted against the abuse of eminent domain. With decisions from Illinois, South Carolina and Arizona, courts have finally begun to restore constitutional protections to home and business owners. The decision of the Michigan Supreme Court in July, reversing its previous Poletown decision, which had allowed the condemnation of an entire neighborhood for a GM plant shows, just how far courts have come.

Susette Kelo, one of the New London homeowners, said, "It is going to mean everything in the world if the U.S. Supreme Court saves my home. I'm so happy for myself and my elderly neighbors who just want to stay in their homes."

"Cities and developers will say that the sky is falling and that development can't happen without taking other people's property by force," concluded Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice. "That's ridiculous. Development happens all over the country, every day, with land purchased voluntarily. That's the way our nation was built, and that's what our Constitution requires."

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