NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mississippi Tries to Seize Land With Expanded Eminent Domain

January 4, 2002

The Constitution allows government to seize private property for public use so long as "just compensation" is given. But can a state seize land on behalf of a private corporation in the name of economic development? In 2000, Mississippi lured Nissan to build a plant in the state in part by promising to "quick take" the property of three families for the car company to use as a parking lot and access road.

Mississippi argues that as a poor state it has the right to seek the "highest and best use" of land to create jobs. Critics contend that if that's the case, the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution means nothing because a government can always find a "better" use for someone's private property.

The trend seems to be running against the loose interpretation of eminent domain.

  • Voters in Baltimore County, Maryland, repealed a law giving the county extended powers for eminent domain for economic development.
  • Pittsburgh abandoned plans to use eminent domain to redevelop downtown after citizen protest.
  • Last year a Pennsylvania court ruled Montgomery County couldn't transfer its sovereign eminent domain power to a developer.

Source: Editorial, "Mississippi Churning," Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2002.

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