Justices, 5-4, Back Seizure of Property for Development

zimv20

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

''It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country,'' said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. ''I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word.''

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: ''A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result.''

Writing for the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he 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 revenue,'' Stevens wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

''It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area,'' he said.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for ''public use.''

(more)
 

mactastic

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Gotta say, I agree with the conservatives on this one. I can live with eminent domain being used to take land that the government then owns, but to take land from one citizen and give it to another? That's a little beyond the pale to me.
 

zimv20

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i had to read it twice to make sure i understood who was on what side. unless there's some other factor that wasn't mentioned in the article, i agree that they got it wrong.
 

mactastic

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jelloshotsrule said:
what the hell is their logic on this one? i was also surprised to see who voted for it... i mean, seriously, what is their reasoning?? crazy
I think it's some form of 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. I just think they're missing the point that it's going to be handed back over to a private developer. As I said before, I can tolerate the idea that government can take private property for themselves when it benefits the many. But that's not what this is.
 

emw

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Aug 2, 2004
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mactastic said:
I think it's some form of 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. I just think they're missing the point that it's going to be handed back over to a private developer. As I said before, I can tolerate the idea that government can take private property for themselves when it benefits the many. But that's not what this is.
Exactly - the private developers stand to benefit greatly, if they can convince local governments that whatever they're developing will generate more revenue than the current property tax base of homes.

Although I'd have to think that cities would in general be loathe to implement this sort of decision. The impact on residency would have to be huge, if you had a precedent for the city demolishing private homes for the sake of big business.

Shocking.
 

Sun Baked

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May 19, 2002
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It is abused as it stood last week, now the cities will cave up entire neighborhoods to replace homes with strip malls.

Because strip malls and Wal-Mart add to the tax base, while homes basically suck down resuorces.
 

Desertrat

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Jul 4, 2003
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Well, there's the sports arena developers, the mall developers, the WalMart types...

How about old houses in "redevelopment zones"? Wht sorts of games can California city councils play in light of Prop 13? That is, can they try to buy at yesterday's prices, raze the old structures and then resell to a developer?

In Texas, you can get a jury trial to set the fair market value, and the juries tend to favor the "victim".

I don't know what this has to do with Liberal or Conservative. Don't folks from both parties own houses?

This ruling says that the perceptions of governmental people outweigh the rights of the citizens as individuals. However, as long as the majority of all voters keep electing those who agree that there is an unending need for more benefits from tax dollars, and more government programs, the electees will keep looking for more ways to get the money.

It's the usual deal: TANSTAAFL.

'Rat
 

mactastic

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We're talking about the recognized liberal and conservative wings of the SCOTUS 'Rat. Yes both liberals and conservatives own houses.
 

Desertrat

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Jul 4, 2003
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My view of liberals, generally, is that they favor stronger central government. I also feel that in too many situations, the strengthening is of the "You done quit preachin' and gone to meddlin'!" sort. That is, too much strengthening, beyond the original intent. Again, that's my opinion, and isn't necessarily in agreement with what's legal or constitutional. I guess for me it's not that there be less power, but I see today's government as using that power beyond what's really needed in our daily lives. I don't believe in the necessity of the patriot Act, nor in the efficacy of the TSA, as examples.

My view of how a judge should look at the constitutionality of an issue is that one should try to the greatest extent possible to leave personal feelings out of the deal. What would the original writers of the Constitution have most likely meant by what they said? For those in love with "auras" and "penumbras" :) I'd think that the auras and penumbras surrounding the late 1700s would generally apply, moreso than those invented in modern times.

So, in this case, I just don't see any original intent that a city use eminent domain to take property so that a private developer can generate more tax money into city coffers. To me, that's a government taking of private property for the benefit of other private entities, with taxes being incidental to the use. WalMart doesn't go to some location for the purpose of paying taxes for the benefit of a city...

From what I've read, this abuse of eminent domain is now numbering above a hundred, in the same sorts of city/developer deals. I look for many more, then, in the future.

But, I don't see how Raich was held to be controllable under the Interstate Commerce clause. Where was there any commerce across state lines, or any local commerce which affected commerce elsewhere?

And I note that many attorneys refer sarcastically to the One-fourth Amendment, insofar as search and seizure.

I could probably work myself into a helluva rant as to how judges have and are screwing things up for the most of us...

'Rat
 

mactastic

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My view of conservatives is that they tend to favor strong central government as well. They just won't 'fess up to it. ;)

Witness Scalia's vote in the Medical Marijuana case, or the GOP's efforts to prevent a private citizen from being able to to whatever they want with a piece of cloth that they purchased.

And it's not just judges screwing things up. It's legislators and executors too.
 

stubeeef

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Aug 10, 2004
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Sun Baked said:
It is abused as it stood last week, now the cities will cave up entire neighborhoods to replace homes with strip malls.

Because strip malls and Wal-Mart add to the tax base, while homes basically suck down resuorces.
In our city the private house uses 115% of propert taxes paid in city services, and commercial properties are so levied that they are at 25% (private dumpsters, water runoff fees, private security....). so you would think that we would push for more commercial properties, NOT, we say no all the time and raise property tax, I will pay 1.2% this year, and we still have crappy schools. Governments suk at doing almost anything, the less they do the better we all are. give me military, police, fire, garbage, and schools, forget the rest.

This is not the USA I think of, now a group of local morons (planning board) can count me as one of their serfs.

This really ticks me off bigtime.
notice my reagan quote in my sig.
 

Dont Hurt Me

macrumors 603
Dec 21, 2002
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It all boils down to Govt sapping freedom ,liberty and land any chance they get. If you look hard is there anything they dont come after or tax? They should just start robbing folks because its what they are doing only its disguised as Law with political spin.. Government is becoming intrusive and a power onto itself they needs to be checked. Govt will not check itself. Who will? they are all control freaks. Republicans and democrats.

Time for the Libertarian Party.
 

stubeeef

macrumors 68030
Aug 10, 2004
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this has shocked me soooo much as to rethink my position on assault weapons ban. yes that is a bit over the top, but if you are coming to get my house to put up a private project, you had better be wearing armor, or have a helluva alot of cash.
I am going to construct an email over the weekend to every elected offical that holds sway over my lil plot of serf land, and let it be known there may just be a coming revolution, this infringement on private property is just astounding to me.
 

zimv20

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okay, having read/skimmed a good bit of it, here's what i'm gathering is the argument of the majority (i.e. finding for the state of CT):
1. the majority considered each of the plaintiffs arguments, but found prior SCOTUS rulings that invalidated each
2. the majority deferred to the lower courts and state legislatures to handle such matters
3. in fact, the majority went out of their way to point out that it's up to the legislatures to make eminent domain more landowner-friendly

so, here we have the majority, typically recognized as the "liberal / activist" justices, specifically not doing that thing that so often gets them called activist. instead, they deferred to other bodies by relying on prior decisions.

meaning that the minority, typically recognized as the more conservative justices, ruled in favor of judicial activism, i.e. disregard prior decisions and, in this case, favor federal rule over local.

starting on page 19 of the decision:
We emphasize that nothing in our opin-ion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power. Indeed, many States already impose “public use” requirements that are stricter than the federal baseline. Some of these requirements have been established as a matter of state constitutional law,22 while others are expressed in state eminent domainstatutes that carefully limit the grounds upon which tak-ings may be exercised.23 As the submissions of the parties and their amici make clear, the necessity and wisdom ofusing eminent domain to promote economic development are certainly matters of legitimate public debate.24 This Court’s authority, however, extends only to determining whether the City’s proposed condemnations are for a “public use” within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Because over a century of our case law interpreting that provision dictates an affirma-tive answer to that question, we may not grant petitioners the relief that they seek.
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Connecticut is affirmed.
 

IJ Reilly

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Jul 16, 2002
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jelloshotsrule said:
what the hell is their logic on this one? i was also surprised to see who voted for it... i mean, seriously, what is their reasoning?? crazy
The logic is, it's local governments that get to decide when a purpose is public, not a court. Any other ruling would have been a huge blow against local control over such issues. The court decided not to draw an arbitrary line, which is the only other way they could have decided this case.
 

stubeeef

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Aug 10, 2004
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eva01 said:
wow this is just one sad sad day for american history
Socialism is here, just out of the closet. Now local government can decide what is best for all of us, or what gives them more taxes to get bigger and fatter. Like I need a bunch of otherwise unemployable nincompoops to decide what is and is not public good. The government has done this in the past, but not to this extreme. I am very worried about the trend this gives. Now every city planning group can screw over its citizens based on their definition (or bribes). Holy Crap!
 

eva01

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Feb 22, 2005
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Gah! Plymouth
You know this exact same thing is what happens in communist china (to a point)

government owns all the land, and can decide what they want to do with it, when they want to do it

basically any town that wants to make their town look better will go to the "ghetto" tear it all down, tell them to get out, and will build a mall or shopping mart
 

Sun Baked

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May 19, 2002
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stubeeef said:
Socialism is here, just out of the closet. Now local government can decide what is best for all of us, or what gives them more taxes to get bigger and fatter. Like I need a bunch of otherwise unemployable nincompoops to decide what is and is not public good. The government has done this in the past, but not to this extreme. I am very worried about the trend this gives. Now every city planning group can screw over its citizens based on their definition (or bribes). Holy Crap!
We now have to face it, small business and homeowners are not socially acceptable sources of revenue.

Especially considering that almost anything else will add new jobs and increase the revenue base.

Can't wait for the abuse to happen when an 20 year old business or families are tossed off the land because they pissed somebody off, and their home and/or small business is though of as a perfect spot for a new Circle-K and a revenue boost. :(

Major economic redevelopment to push out homes and old businesses on major streets could be coming.

Heck there are a couple $5-7 million dollar mansions around here on major streets that could end up getting bulldozed -- because they hold 5 acres of prime real estate on major streets.

These home are not eyesores, but their replacement would after all serve the public good.

Heck they can now plant a mall or auto mall anywhere. :(

Mesa, AZ is hurting for revenue after the other cities in the metro area grabbed key projects, should be interesting to see how they twist this around.
 

IJ Reilly

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Jul 16, 2002
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eva01 said:
You know this exact same thing is what happens in communist china (to a point)

government owns all the land, and can decide what they want to do with it, when they want to do it

basically any town that wants to make their town look better will go to the "ghetto" tear it all down, tell them to get out, and will build a mall or shopping mart
This is probably one of the most commonly misunderstood issues in all of US Constitutional law. No, it's not like China, not even to a point. The Constitution expressly permits the taking of private property for public purposes, with just compensation. The only issue at play in this case was whether the Supreme Court would decide when a purpose isn't "public enough" to justify the use of these powers. The Court in effect decided not to intercede, which is a very good thing. Trust me, you would not like to live in a world where no local government knew when they had the ability to exercise their Constitutionally granted taking powers.