NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 10, 2006

The Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo et al. vs. City of New London, Conn. (2005) -- which upheld the governments' right to condemn private property and turn it over to developers -- has emboldened public officials, according to the Institute for Justice.

Local governments have threatened or condemned 5,783 properties for private projects in the past year, says the Institute, which defended Suzette Kelo in the case.  That's up from an annual average of 2,056 such threats and takings from 1998 to 2002.

But the Kelo case also has inspired a political backlash.  It has united conservative defenders of property rights and liberals who say the seizures amount to corporate welfare at the expense of the powerless.  Consider:

  • Some 25 states have enacted laws to curb eminent domain seizures -- something the Supreme Court invited them to do in making its ruling.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives voted last year to bar federal economic development funds to state and local agencies that use eminent domain for private commercial development.
  • On June 23, one year after the Kelo decision, President Bush issued an executive order that federal agencies can seize private property only for public projects.

Supporters of the ruling argue that abuses are rare and that condemnation is needed to encourage economic growth.  But the truth is that under the court's ruling almost no one's property is safe unless states impose limits.  The Kelo ordeal should encourage political leaders to do more to stop bulldozers from plowing through the American dream, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "One year later, power to seize property ripe for abuse," USA Today, July 10, 2006

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