Supreme Court rules against New London residents
I'm somewhat surprised over this decsision but the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that local government can seize your home against your will for private development (Kelo v. New London, 04-108). The ruling is a blow to the residents in New London who are being forced out of their homes so their land can be used for commericial use.
I'm on the side of the conservatives on this one. Big business and developers (with their lobbyists) can now persuade the city to just come in and take your property simply to make a profit (I don't buy the tax revenue story, it's always about the bug guy getting paid not what's in the best interest of the people living in the city). In the end, the small working guy who working to pay of his mortgage loses and is forced to relocate. I never want to be in a position where the city can force me off of my land, it just doesn't seem fair.
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 wrote for the majority. He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen G. Beyer.
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."
Susette Kelo 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 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, 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.
I rarely do this but I'm going to open up the comment section so I can get feedback on this ruling. Please chime in!
UPDATE: CT law Blog provided a link to the Supreme Court's oral arguments (pdf format)