Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

"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."- Yahoo news

Right or wrong decision???

7 Comments:

  • Man....this is a tough one. On one hand, I recognize that the municipality does have the right in certain circumstances, to claim that property. On the other hand, the three purposes of government are the protection of "life, liberty, and property."

    Really hard...

    By Blogger David Ketter, at 11:06 AM  

  • The government's right of "eminent domain" is very important to the national welfare, but that power has always been strictly limited to "public use". I think it is quite necessary for the local government to have the right to seize property to use for roads, bridges, etc. But it is an entirely different question when it comes to private use. This Supreme Court decision makes it possible for the government to take property from private citizens and give it to other private citizens. In other words, the government can now pick and choose which citizens they want to own what property. The argument that higher tax revenue is in the "public interest", has put all private property in jeopardy. Especially churches or non-profit organizations. If a town or municipality decides that they want tax income from a particular piece of land, then they have the right ( under this new ruling ) to force a church to sell their land to them so a business complex, or whatever, can be built there instead. This ruling was a complete misinterpretation of the Constitution, IMO.

    By Blogger Ashley, at 7:09 PM  

  • You make a good point there Ashley....although, I can sympathize with the Justices on this one...either option was a lose-lose situation...so they picked the one that prevents criminal misuse of the law.

    Honestly, I would propose a law that would have an amendment protecting the rights of the citizenry in various situations....

    By Blogger David Ketter, at 7:03 PM  

  • Well, I'm not really as mad at these justices as some are ( check out the Gen-J thread on this where Bryce and Ryan are calling for states to secede) and I'm glad it was a 5-4 decision. Excellent dissent too, by the now retiring Justice O'Connor.

    "so they picked the one that prevents criminal misuse of the law."

    I'm sorry but I'm not sure what you are referring to. :) The two options the court had were either to allow the homeowners to keep their property, or to rule that the government had the right to take it and give it to other private owners. IMO, the court ruled on the side of "criminal misuse of the law".


    The good news is that from what I understand, the justices did lay out some sort of restrictions on government land grabbing so it's not like we will have a free-for-all. Also, there are several states ( including mine) that have laws in their state constitution banning such behavior by local governments. So maybe urging state laws such as these in the other states would help curb the damage from this ruling.

    By Blogger Ashley, at 10:39 AM  

  • Bryce calling for secession? Dang, wouldn't that totally ruin GenJ? For some reason, the mail-alerts for the threads haven't been working so it's kinda hard to remember to get on there!

    By criminal misuse, I meant criminals using it to their advantage if eminent domain was completely denied....it would grant them protection that would seriously harm the country.

    As for states, I was just watching PCN (Pennsylvania Cable News) today and they are proposing legislation to protect property rights. So I guess you could say that the ruling was empty....

    By Blogger David Ketter, at 6:15 PM  

  • Yay! I'm not the only one not receiving email notifications!:) I thought I had messed something up. Now I can complain to the moderator!:)

    By Blogger Ashley, at 3:16 PM  

  • YES! PLEASE DO!

    By Blogger David Ketter, at 1:01 PM  

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