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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Don't Be Here? But Where Am I To Go?

Once again, profit uber alles:
A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday 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 often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sanday Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had 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.

[...]

O'Connor, who has often been a key swing vote at the court, issued a stinging dissent, arguing that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, 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."

Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."

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

Not much to add, really, except... y'know what gets me most about this? This ruling was handed down by the supposedly "liberal" justices. The dissenters were O'Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas.

See? I can agree with them, if I feel they're right about something.

Comments:
If this is used against slumlords, to benefit the poor and the whole community, and not just used against the poor to benefit the rich, this could be a good thing. It depends on how corrupt your local government is. corruption is a form of terrorism.
 
"If this is used against slumlords, to benefit the poor and the whole community, and not just used against the poor to benefit the rich, this could be a good thing."

Yes, and if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle.

Realistically, this is a license for the well-connected to force down the prices they have to pay for property using the threat of condemnation. If you can't afford good legal represenation, "just compensation" in practice means "what the government feels like paying".

I note in passing that pretty much everybody (other than the Babbit types who directly benefit) is appalled at this decision, running the gamut from Free Republic to Democratic Underground.
 
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