NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 9, 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.) that the Constitution does not stop cities from seizing homes to make way for commercial developments has sparked a furious reaction, says the Washington Post. Politicians of both parties are now proposing new legislation to sharply limit the kind of seizure the court's decision validated.

Larry Morandi, an analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, says most if not all state legislatures will be dealing with eminent domain laws next year. Some have already begun to address the issue:

  • New statues in Alabama and Texas sharply curtail eminent domain condemnations for private development; a new statute in Delaware permits condemnation but sets new procedurals requirements.
  • According to the Institute for Justice, hundreds of local governments around the country are debating new ordinances to restrict the use of eminent domain and many have passed laws this summer barring any seizure of private property for commercial development.
  • Several members of Congress introduced legislation that would bar federal financing for any local government project that condemns property for a commercial development, however, Congress did authorize governments to condemn property for the benefit of energy companies in the new energy bill.

Supreme Court justices may not be unhappy about this reaction, says the Post. In a recent speech, Justice John Paul Stevens, author of the majority opinion in the Kelo case, said he did not agree with the property seizure in the Kelo case but felt the law required him to uphold it nonetheless.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who dissented in Kelo, warned that permitting seizure of private property for private development would have a reverse Robin Hood effect, granting government license to transfer property from those with few resources to those with more.

Source: T.R. Reid, "Missouri Condemnation No Longer So Imminent," Washington Post, September 6, 2005.

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