Friday, June 24, 2005

Eminant Domain

The Supreme Court effectively has delcared part of the Fifth Amendment null and void. In it's ruling on eminant domain, the Courts liberals ,along with what ever leanings Justice Kennedy has, have expanded eminant domain from siezing private property for public works, towhat ever a town or city decides it wants to do with private property. Private proprty rights in this country are on their death bed, based on this ruling. The Fifth Amendment, does not grant eminant domain, it restricts it. Or, it used to. Here is OpinionJournal's take on the ruling.

"The Supreme Court's "liberal" wing has a reputation in some circles as a guardian of the little guy and a protector of civil liberties. That deserves reconsideration in light of yesterday's decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The Court's four liberals (Justices Stevens, Breyer, Souter and Ginsburg) combined with the protean Anthony Kennedy to rule that local governments have more or less unlimited authority to seize homes and businesses.

No one disputes that this power of "eminent domain" makes sense in limited circumstances; the Constitution's Fifth Amendment explicitly provides for it. But the plain reading of that Amendment's "takings clause" also appears to require that eminent domain be invoked only when land is required for genuine "public use" such as roads. It further requires that the government pay owners "just compensation" in such cases.

The founding fathers added this clause to the Fifth Amendment--which also guarantees "due process" and protects against double jeopardy and self-incrimination--because they understood that there could be no meaningful liberty in a country where the fruits of one's labor are subject to arbitrary government seizure.

That protection was immensely diminished by yesterday's 5-4 decision, which effectively erased the requirement that eminent domain be invoked for "public use." The Court said that the city of New London, Connecticut, was justified in evicting a group of plaintiffs led by homeowner Susette Kelo from their properties to make way for private development including a hotel and a Pfizer Corp. office. (Yes, the pharmaceutical Pfizer.) The properties to be seized and destroyed include Victorian homes and small businesses that have been in families for generations."

Now towns and cities can run amok using eminant domain to siexe private property for what ever reason they determine will be be for the "public good". In a city such as Las Vegas, this will have very serious implications as the city is ever growing and always on the look out for properties adjacent to the Strip and downtown. As if the likes of Steve Wynn and Donald Trump need the city tocondemn land for their casinoand hotel projects.

"And it's not just the "public use" requirement of the Fifth Amendment that's undermined by Kelo. So too is the guarantee of "just compensation." Why? Because there is no need to invoke eminent domain if developers are willing to pay what owners themselves consider just compensation.

Just compensation may differ substantially from so-called fair market value given the sentimental and other values many of us attach to our homes and other property. Even eager sellers will be hurt by Kelo, since developers will have every incentive to lowball their bids now that they can freely threaten to invoke eminent domain."

Developers will now be able to influence the citiy governments to take private property and in effect, be able to lowball "just compensation". Talk about opening the door for graft and influencing campaigns by making donations to politicians that would be developer friendly. So much for campaign finance reform.

"So, in just two weeks, the Supreme Court has rendered two major decisions on the limits of government. In Raich v. Gonzales the Court said there are effectively no limits on what the federal government can do using the Commerce Clause as a justification. In Kelo, it's now ruled that there are effectively no limits on the predations of local governments against private property.

These kinds of judicial encroachments on liberty are precisely why Supreme Court nominations have become such high-stakes battles. If President Bush is truly the "strict constructionist" he professes to be, he will take note of the need to check this disturbing trend should he be presented with a High Court vacancy."

All the more reason for the next Justices of the Supreme Court to be very strict constructionists. Those that whine about losing freedoms under the Patriot Act, should be up in arms over this latest SCOTUS ruling. - Sailor

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