Thursday, June 23, 2005

Home is Where the Home Depot Is

Well, folks, the Supreme Court announced today that there's nothing stopping your local government from taking your property and shuffling it off to a private developer for the purpose of bolstering the economy and increasing tax revenues.

I haven't seen the opinion yet, since the slip opinion hasn't been posted and won't until later in the day.

Let me just say that I'm disgusted by this ruling. The takings clause has traditionally been interpreted to mean that private property may only be "taken" for public use. Five members of our Supreme Court have apparently determined that, even if the "use" is private, it's still okay as long as there's some demonstrable benefit to the community.

Ooooh how I wish I were on the City Council of the town in which John Paul Stevens lives. I'd "pave paradise, and put up a parking lot," quicker than you can say, "Get off the Court you old fascist!"

More later.


I've read the opinion, and here's my take.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government."

--John Paul Stevens

Essentially, what they're saying is that because the City of New London "carefully considered" its economic development plan, and because we don't quite know yet which corporate giants will be benefitting from it, they can take whatever they want to as long as it fits into that plan.

They continue the idiotic assumption that "public use" means "public purpose," which is contrary to the ideals upon which our conception of private property is based.

Accordingly, they reject the argument that the government must show a "reasonable certainty that the expected public benefits will actually accrue." Meaning, if your city says that they want to take your property for "economic development," they may do so without even being required to show a likelihood that a developer will even be interested in the property.

"We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power." Actually, their opinion gives government the moon, the stars, and the kitchen sink, unless they themselves choose to limit that right.

Start lobbying your state legislatures, people, 'cause that's the only way to stop this wholesale theft and corporate welfare.

From the dissent:

"Today the court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power [that government may not take property from A to give it to B]. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process."

"To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property -- and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

" [W]ere the political branches the sole arbiters of the public-private distinction, the Public Use Clause would amount to little more than hortatory fluff."

-- Justice O'Connor

What else can be said? Nobody's property is safe anymore.


"This is not a prank."

I certainly hope that the above-linked individual didn't get his idea from me. What am I saying? Of course I hope he read it here first. Still, I must admit that my comment about Justice Stevens' house was tongue-in-cheek.

The reason being that, in the Kelo opinion, there is plenty of discussion of the illegality of the use of the eminent domain power (enough "of"'s already!), when it's being used vindictively against a specific person or group of people. Such as, a case of the City of Weare, New Hampshire attempting to oust a Supreme Court Justice from his home.

Further, the opinion discusses the comparable illegality involved when the private party to be benefited by the taking is already known. Such as, a case where a private developer actively petitions the Council for the use of eminent domain.

Both of those things above apply to Freestar Media, L.L.C.'s attempt.

That's why, in my original post here, I stated my wish that I were a member of the City Council of Stevens' hometown. In that case, I could "carefully develop" a plan for "economic development" that just happened to include Stevens' house, and the Supreme Court wouldn't be able to second-guess me.

A brilliant plan, and a fond wish, but then some yahoo from New Hampshire had to go and ruin it.

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