High Court’s Property Decision Stirs Anger

Subject: High Court’s Property Decision Stirs Anger

High Court’s Property Decision Stirs Anger
Seen as ‘slap in the face’ to American homeowners

Property-rights advocates condemned the Supreme
Court’s split decision yesterday allowing a local
government to seize a home or business against the
owner’s will for the purpose of private development.
The 5-4 ruling went against the owners of New London,
Conn., homes targeted for destruction to make room
for an office complex.
The American Conservative Union, the nation’s oldest
and largest conservative grass-roots organization,
noted many of the affected citizens have deep roots
in their community, including a married couple in
their 80s who have lived in the same home for more
than 50 years.
“It is outrageous to think that the government can
take away your home any time it wants to build a
shopping mall,” said ACU Chairman David Keene. “[The]
Supreme Court ruling is a slap in the face to
property owners everywhere.”
Keene believes “liberal, activist judges will
continue to violate the rights of individuals in
favor of big government and special interests.”
“To help protect property rights, Americans must push
for a fair, originalist judge to be appointed to the
Supreme Court when the next vacancy arises,” he said.

Susette Kelo was among several residents who sued the
city after officials announced plans to raze their
homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and
“I was in this battle to save my home and, in the
process, protect the rights of working class
homeowners throughout the country,” Kelso said. “I am
very disappointed that the court sided with powerful
government and business interests, but I will
continue to fight to save my home and to preserve the
The debate centered on the scope of the Fifth
Amendment, which allows governments to take private
property through eminent domain if the land is for
“public use.”
Until now, that has been interpreted to mean projects
such as roads, schools and urban renewal. But New
London officials argued that the private development
plans served a public purpose of boosting economic
growth, even though the area was not blighted.
“It’s a dark day for American homeowners,” said Dana
Berliner, senior attorney with the Institute for
Justice, which represented the group of Connecticut
residents in the case.
“While most constitutional decisions affect a small
number of people, this decision undermines the rights
of every American, except the most politically
connected,” Berliner said. “Every home, small
business or church would produce more taxes as a
shopping center or office building. And according to
the court, that’s a good enough reason for eminent
California state Sen. Tom McClintock, who ran for
governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the
Supreme Court “broke the social compact by striking
down one of Americans’ most fundamental rights.”
“Their decision nullifies the Constitution’s Public
Use Clause and opens an era when the rich and
powerful may use government to seize the property of
ordinary citizens for private gain,” he said. “The
responsibility now falls on the various states to
reassert and restore the property rights of their
McClintock announced he plans to introduce an
amendment to the California Constitution to restore
the original meaning of the property protections in
the Bill of Rights.
“This amendment will require that the government must
either own the property it seizes through eminent
domain or guarantee the public the legal right to use
the property,” he said. “In addition, it will require
that such property must be restored to the original
owner or his rightful successor, if the government
ceases to use it for the purpose of the eminent
domain action.”
Writing in dissent of yesterday’s decision, Justice
Sandra Day O’Connor said cities shouldn’t be allowed
to uproot a family in order to accommodate wealthy
“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
O’Conner was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice
William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and
Clarence Thomas.
Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens
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
He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H.
Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
The American Family Association noted Justice
Clarence Thomas’ addition to O’Conner’s dissent: “If
such ‘economic development’ takings are for a ‘public
use,’ any taking is, and the Court has erased the
Public Use Clause from our Constitution.”
Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the AFA Center
for Law & Policy, said America’s founders “held that
government was instituted to protect property as much
as persons, but today’s high court no longer respects
private property.”
“There is a world of difference between taking
private property for a legitimate public use, such as
the building of a road, and some private developer’s
get-rich-quick scheme,” he said. “In effect, the
Supreme Court has written over city hall: ‘The
government giveth, and the government taketh away.'”
Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice,
said both the majority and the dissent recognized
that the action in this issue now turns to state
supreme courts where the public-use battle will be
fought out under state constitutions.
“Today’s decision in no way binds those courts,” he
Mellor said his group will work to ensure the
property owners in New London keep their homes.
“This is a terrible precedent that must be overturned
by this court, just as bad state supreme court
eminent domain decisions in Michigan and Illinois
were later overturned by those courts,” he said.
Another homeowner in the case, Mike Cristofaro, has
owned property New London for more than 30 years.
“I am astonished that the court would permit the
government to throw out my family from their home so
that private developers can make more money,” he
said. “Although the court ruled against us, I am very
proud of the fight we waged for my family and for the
rights of all Americans.”
The Institute for Justice says more than 10,000
private properties have been threatened or condemned
in recent years.

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So, does anyone here still think that you have a right to “The American Dream” – or even to own your own home?


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