Court Rules: Government can seize private property

Just because it’s your property, doesn’t mean it’s your property. :?

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses — even against their will — for private economic development.

It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

I did not see this one coming.

EDIT: The whole story:

Quote:
WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth conflicts with individual property rights.

Thursday’s 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

“The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue,” Justice John Paul Stevens (search) wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain (search) if the land is for “public use.”

Susette Kelo (search) and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London (search) officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners’ property rights, even if the area wasn’t blighted.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (search), who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

“Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,” O’Connor wrote. “The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice (search), a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of 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.

The New London neighborhood that will be swept away includes Victorian-era houses and small businesses that in some instances have been owned by several generations of families. Among the New London residents in the case is a couple in their 80s who have lived in the same home for more than 50 years.

City officials envision a commercial development 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 (search), 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.

Love to see the legal brief on this one…

WHAT?

HOW THE FUCK IS THAT POSSIBLE…

I’m moving to Canada (said that before… it’s a figure of speech)

wow… that sucks… dont piss off your local elected official, you wont have a house to come home to :slight_smile:

yup, saw this a while back on one of the nation news program. they were interviewing a number of neighborhood residents from (i beleive but may be wrong) the Conn. neighborhood mentioned in the above artical

the idea that a private company would have the power to simply ask the town “hey, could you take this 10 acre section of land for me so we can make ourselves richer?” pisses me off to no end

eminent domain should be a “non profit” setup … highways and schools and town buildings…

the second that its a private company trying to get land to build their business … buy the land your own damn self !

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v202/Cuban_Crisis/TFG.gif

this is awful

It’s always been possible. Your property could be seized for “public use.” This decision seems to expand public use to include private uses for the “public good.” What exactly it really means won’t be clear until there is some caselaw that interprets this decision. At any rate, PM me your email for the full opinion in a word document, or go here: http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-108.ZS.html for the opinion in smaller, easy to digest pieces.

So who can see Giambra taking people’s property as a means to get Erie County out of the shitter?

:tdown:

my friend sent me this link earlier in the morning…boO to that crap

woweeee… it seems like lately people are just seeing how much they can get away with before we go… uhh no, you can’t do that.

I’ve been seeing a lot of this “wow, that doesn’t make any sense/how can they DO that” sort of stuff going down lately.

Just today:

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/debrasaunders/ds20050728.shtml

This land is your land – No. Your land is their land
Debra Saunders (archive)

July 28, 2005 | printer friendly version Print | email to a friend Recommend to a friend

A letter on the front of what used to be Revelli Tires in Oakland warns: “Eminent domain unfair. To learn all about the abuses of eminent domain, please go to www.castlecoaliton.org. Educate yourself. Pay attention. You could be next.”

John Revelli wrote the note after the city of Oakland evicted him on July 1 from his own property – and a business run by his family since 1949 – so that a private developer could build apartments on his land. It especially galls him, Revelli told me over the phone Tuesday, that while he has been forced away from his livelihood for weeks, Oakland hasn’t done anything with his property. Go look at the building, he said, and the sign will still be there because the city hasn’t touched anything. Sure enough, the sign was up on Tuesday night.

Oakland also evicted Tony Fung, Revelli’s next-door neighbor and the owner-operator of Autohouse on 20th Street. “I am a first-generation immigrant,” Fung told me. “This is my American dream.”

To hell with Fung’s dream – the city of Oakland seized it, so that someone else can build on it. And without offering enough money for Fung to relocate his business, he says.

The city has legions of lawyers to press its case, while Fung says he has to scrape together pennies to hire an attorney.

“There’s no way a small guy like me is able to fight that,” Fung noted. He has lost his business, his property and the belief that private property is truly private in the United States. That last item – belief in the system – was destroyed in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that governments can seize private property to give it to private developers. Somehow, that sweetheart deal constitutes “public use” – maybe because city government grows richer through increased tax revenue.

That may explain why the Oakland City Council voted six-to-one to authorize this eminent-domain seizure. One vote and – voila – you see two small businessmen up against City Hall, the Big Bench and big developers. Talk about being outgunned.

Dana Berliner, a lawyer for the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, which fights government eminent-domain overreach, argued that the California Supreme Court and state law don’t bolster eminent-domain abuses. But: “The laws are routinely ignored because local governments know most people can’t afford to fight them.”

“A constitutional amendment is the best way of protecting California citizens from tax-hungry local government and land-hungry developers,” Berliner added. Please note: State Sen. Tom McClintock has drafted an amendment for just that purpose.

Meanwhile, Revelli and Fung have lost their livelihoods.

I plead guilty to gushing back in 1999 about Mayor Jerry Brown’s plan to add 6,000 units of housing to the downtown area – and with private money. I never dreamed, however, that Oakland would evict successful, blight-free businesses so that private developers could make more money.

I called the offices of Council Members Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente, Mayor Jerry Brown, and some city officials connected with what is called the Uptown Project. I heard many reasons why various biggies couldn’t talk to me.

Brown – to his credit – did talk.

“I know Revelli,” said Brown. “He fixed my brakes, twice.” Brown lives seven blocks away from Revelli’s shop. He admitted that Autohouse and Revelli Tires are not blighted, but told of other buildings nearby that were crime-ridden and vermin-infested before the city pushed for redevelopment.

“You cannot have a downtown with this kind of abandonment,” said Brown. And: “There is a greater good here,” in eradicating the blight and replacing it with homes.

The mayor also made a pledge: “It’s not easy, but I personally pledge to do everything I can to get this guy located.” Fung, too.

If that doesn’t happen, it is not as if Oakland couldn’t redevelop the land around Autohouse and Revelli Tires, which occupy about 6,500 square feet amid asphalt parking lots.

“I was very, very happy there,” Revelli told me. “I had the best building, the best location – one block from the BART station. I couldn’t have asked for better.”

Well, there was one problem with Revelli’s property: It was on such a prime location, the government virtually stole it.

You could be next.

Woody Guthrie wrote: “This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York Island. From the redwood forest, to the gulf-stream waters, this land was made for you and me.”

As far as the U.S. Supreme Court and Oakland are concerned, alas, those lyrics are all wet. To the true believers in eminent domain, your land is their land, and all land was made to produce optimal tax revenue.

:tdown:

ahh…good old american way…a capitalist society based on classizm (sp?) and sold to us as democracy…VI VA LA REVOLUTION