Thursday, June 23, 2005

SCOTUS Eliminates Private Property Rights

The big news of the day is the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo v. New London [PDF here]. This decision, which allows a city government to take, say, your grandmother's home for the purposes of building an IKEA, is an outrage to anyone who supports the basic concept of private property. Make no mistake, this ruling will have big implications in the forthcoming fight to fill the next vacancy on the Court.

From Justice O'Conner's dissent, joined by Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist:
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.
A good friend sent me an e-mail about the decision, which I post here because it places this ludicrous decision in historical context:
Although this might be a stretch (and is definitely an unqualified opinion), I think that this is the worst decision the court has made in the past 60 years. It is a further example of the real dichotomy of this nation (urban vs less urban rather than blue vs red) when a group of city dwelling Judges can determine that municipalities have a constitutional authority to both define the parameters of the city's welfare and nearly unlimited domain to accomplish those needs. To think that we "loosed ourselves" from Aristocratic and Monarchial claims on our property to one day decide that the city, generally administered in this country by our least able and least educated politicians, could take peoples land to further economic development. It is absurd. I am really quite shocked and to see the voices that line up in support of the powerful and influential in this matter. Liberals of all people. Further proof that they love and believe in only one thing, the power of government. How many low-income homeowners are going to be kicked out of their property for a new mall or riverside condominiums? How many renters in the center of town are going to be thrown out on their ear because the landlord can now be forced to sell-out their property for the city's "interest." It is appalling.
I agree.

UPDATE: Michele Malkin has the pundit rundown.

MORE: Professor Bainbridge weighs in here.

YET MORE: Are churches next?
If the purported intention of such property condemnation and seizure is increasing tax revenue, as Justice Stevens clearly believed it was, then there is no kind of building more vulnerable than a house of worship, for the simple reason that cities do not collect property taxes from houses of worship, nor any other kind of tax.

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