Thursday, June 23, 2005

Kelo Decision: US Supreme Court Takes Away Property Rights, Ignores Amendment V

Justices, 5-4, Back Seizure of Property for Development: "The Supreme Court ruled today, in a deeply emotional case weighing the rights of property owners and the good of the community, that local governments can sometimes seize homes and businesses and turn them over to private developers.

In a case with nationwide implications, the court ruled, 5 to 4, against a group of homeowners in New London, Conn., who have resisted the city's plans to demolish their working-class homes near the Thames River to make way for an office building, riverfront hotel and other commercial activities.

The majority held that, just as government has the constitutional power of eminent domain to acquire private property to clear slums or to build roads, bridges, airports and other facilities to benefit the public, it can sometimes do so for private developers if the latters' projects also serve a public good.

In a bitter dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the majority had created an ominous precedent. "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," she 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."

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

"As for the victims," Justice O'Connor went on, "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

Justice Stevens was joined in the majority by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Justice O'Connor's fellow dissenters were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The case is Kelo v. City of New London, No. 04-108. Susette Kelo is one of the property owners who petitioned the courts to block the condemnation of their homes in the Fort Trumbull area of New London. "
Find Law link for the opinion here.
I deplore this decision. This is an issue worthy of a constitutional amendment if necessary. The right to private property is to me one of this country's core principles as established by our founders and as stated in our constitution. I will have more remarks after I read the opinion and the dissents. Please note the dissent is from the "conservative" Justices.

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