Monday, June 27, 2005

Follow Up on Kelo v. New London

Initial reaction to the 5-4 decision that massively expanded cities' eminent domain rights was scathing to say the least. One interesting aspect is that this ruling doesn't override any state laws on the subject. It allows it to still happen, unless states make a law that forbids it. Right now Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington all forbid the taking of private land for anything other than urban redevelopment (i.e. blighted - truly blighted - areas only). Meanwhile Sen John Cornyn (R - TX) has introduced a bill to try and blunt the impact of the SCOTUS ruling, but who knows what impact it will have. Because state governments can override the SCOTUS ruling with stricter laws with regard to eminent domain seizures, it's in everybody's best interests to work on their local government officials rather than national ones. It's easier to move a state Senator than a national one, in large part because nobody focuses on them, so constituent letters and the like will be noticed much more than if it were to your US representative.
One key thought that I pulled from Justice Thomas' dissent: "Still worse, it is backwards to adopt a searching standard of constitutional review for nontraditional property interests, such as welfare benefits, while deferring to the legislature’s determination as to what constitutes a public use when it exercises the power of eminent domain, and thereby invades individuals’ traditional rights in real property...Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not."

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