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Supreme Court Rules Private Property Can be Seized 1829

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the supreme-court-totally-rules dept.
slew writes "CNN is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case where a local community seized private houses for commercial development (not public works) under the guise of eminent domain. Needless to say, the little guy loses to the commercial developer this case... "
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Supreme Court Rules Private Property Can be Seized

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  • by slash76 (894155) * on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:07PM (#12893907) Journal
    All your homes are belong to us.
  • pwn3d (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Binestar (28861) * on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:08PM (#12893912) Homepage
    So what the supreme court ruled was that you own your land, but the wealthy business pwns j00
    • Re:pwn3d (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:14PM (#12894012) Homepage Journal
      Let's lay the blame where it belongs. Sure the businesses are acting in self interest, but it's the government acting like thugs.

      -Peter
    • Re:pwn3d (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Uruk (4907) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:15PM (#12894031)
      It's not the wealth of the business that makes them effective, it's their contacts with the local city government. If they convince the city government that some piece of development is in the city's best interests, they're in. It doesn't take money to do this, it just takes connections.

      The principle that has been established is that you own your land unless the government can think of a purpose for your land that would suit what they identify as the higher economic good. That's called expropriation [google.com].

      Expropriation is bad, mmmkay?

      • Re:pwn3d (Score:4, Insightful)

        by josecanuc (91) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:30PM (#12894292) Homepage Journal
        The principle that has been established is that you own your land unless the government can think of a purpose for your land that would suit what they identify as the higher economic good.

        They are turning the Constitution's wording ("except for public use") into their own wording ("except for public benefit").

        ick

  • Woot!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ooblek (544753) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:08PM (#12893916)
    Now I can finally plow down my two neighbors houses and install my cluster!!!!
  • by Tuxedo Jack (648130) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:08PM (#12893921) Homepage
    And it overturns the ruling from the early 90s involving Donald Trump trying to seize a woman's house to turn her land into a parking garage for a casino, I don't see how in the world this is classified as YRO.

    Perhaps the ruling applies to online property as well - though the major companies generally try to invoke the DMCA for that (Microsoft vs. Mike Rowe, et cetera). That would make it relevant.
  • Aarghhh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RoverDaddy (869116) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:08PM (#12893922) Homepage
    This runs so counter to the concept of using eminent domain for the public good that I could scream. I guess there's not much chance Congress would consider limiting eminent domain to the more 'traditional' uses like roads, schools, etc. Sigh.
    • Re:Aarghhh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Wordsmith (183749)
      I'm not sure whether I agree with the court's ruling, but you don't think a healthy local economy can be in the public's good? What if it provides local jobs, or gives the neighborhood a nice downtown?

      As a libertarian, I tend to say "fuck off" to government when it wants to curtail my liberties in the interest of the public good, even when I believe that interest might actually be served. But that aside, the court may have been right in finding commercial development MAY in some cases fall within the defin
      • Re:Aarghhh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by XorNand (517466) * on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:35PM (#12894363)
        You're a self-proclaimed "libertarian" and you don't know whether to support the expansion of eminent domain powers or not?

        Please surrender your membership card at the door. Thank you.
      • Re:Aarghhh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Struct (660658) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:06PM (#12894787)
        It seems almost reasonable at first to say that as long as it's for the 'public good', then it's probably okay for the city to take this land. Justice O'Conner's dissent very clearly states what is wrong with that thinking, though:
        "Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

        In short, the ruling today has decided that being in the 'public good' is simply a matter of being 'generally kind of better than what was there before, maybe' (although specifically, they find that there is no burden on the developer to ensure that the 'public good' is ever actually realized).

        Basically, private property owners like you and me get the shaft when developers decide they can do something more publicly beneificial with our land than we can. Totally nuts.

    • Re:Aarghhh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DarthWiggle (537589) <sckiwi@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:23PM (#12894170) Journal
      Why should Congress limit eminent domain if we can vote for the people who exercise it? The way I see it, if these town council folks don't get booted out in the next election, that's a referendum on their use of state power.
      • Re:Aarghhh. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by l2718 (514756) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:31PM (#12894310)
        Why should Congress limit eminent domain if we can vote for the people who exercise it?

        This point is made by the majority, and nicely refuted by the dissent. The problem is that the people most likely to be hurt by this ruling are the poor and uneducated, who have much less access to and influence over the political process. On the other hand the people who benefit are the rich, who do wield considerable influence. When is the last time eminent domain was used to take away a $1,000,000 home to make way for affordable housing?

        To make the point another way, if the electoral process provided a sufficient check over abuse of eminent domain, there would be no need for a Constitutional guarantee against that abuse. The case in point shows the need for a secured right.

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:49PM (#12895281) Homepage
      This runs so counter to the concept of using eminent domain for the public good that I could scream.


      Actually, I DID scream. Never in my fucking life did I actually get so emotional about how fucked up our government is. Today, I let out a deep fucking scream to let it all out.


      I call for a revolution...if it's not already in the process.
  • All hail the rich (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ewithrow (409712) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:09PM (#12893923) Homepage
    The war against the rich and lower classes is over.

    The rich have won.
  • Dammit... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tebriel (192168) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:09PM (#12893924)
    Increasing the tax base is now a reason to seize someone's property. Nice.
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:25PM (#12894200) Journal
      Increasing the tax base is now a reason to seize someone's property.

      And that creates a new way around California's Proposition 13 (which keeps them from raising property taxes on your house and land until it sells). Watch for this:

      1) Emminent domain the tax-capped house.
      2) Sell it to another buyer. (Taxes now at new rate.)
      3) Previous owner has to buy a different house. (Taxes now at new rate.)

      Old owner is now paying the higher tax rate. Old property is now taxed at the higher tax rate.

      Public good: Increased tax base.

      Supremes say that's OK, it's a state matter.

      Oops!
  • by DataPath (1111) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:09PM (#12893926)
    it was a 5-4 decision, which the conclusion being that the supreme court doesn't feel it's their job the decide what falls within the "public good" clause of eminent domain.

    They stated that this doesn't nothing to prevent states from legislating limits on eminent domain seizures by municipal government
    • by aliens (90441) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:14PM (#12894015) Homepage Journal
      Thank you for seeing through the knee-jerk reaction. Basically they said what the Conservatives would normally say, the states have the power. Rather than limit the rights of the states this ruling gives them more power. What they do with it is not for the federal government to decide.

      Want your state to make laws to prevent this? Show up and vote.
      • by jthayden (811997) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:19PM (#12894088)
        I've been showing up to vote for awhile now. It doesn't seem to stop the all out freefall of this country. Next suggestion?
        • by KlomDark (6370) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:22PM (#12894145) Homepage Journal
          Same here. WTF are we coming to? Guess it's time to use the 2nd Amendment Citizen Veto - Some rich fucker kicks me out of my house, there's going to be blood spilled. Sorry, my get-along limits stop there.
          • by slashdot_commentator (444053) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:48PM (#12894551) Journal
            And what are you going to do when Walmart is the one taking your house? Shoot 100K share holders? Or more likely, the rent-a-cop, or the CEO corporate flunky? As long as you're making a blood sacrifice, that will even the books? Are you willing to destroy your family's economic survival to prove a point?

            You may be thinking a little too small view here.
            • YES! (Score:5, Insightful)

              by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:54PM (#12895332) Homepage
              And what are you going to do when Walmart is the one taking your house? Shoot 100K share holders? Or more likely, the rent-a-cop, or the CEO corporate flunky? As long as you're making a blood sacrifice, that will even the books? Are you willing to destroy your family's economic survival to prove a point?


              The answer not just "yes...it's HELL FUCKING YES! If I'm kicked out of my home and property because I'm too "poor" to afford my own investment, then I personally have nothing left to live for. Everyone has their own value on life, and this is mine. It's because of such actions how revolutions are started.
          • by BrookHarty (9119) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:30PM (#12895106) Homepage Journal
            Some rich fucker kicks me out of my house, there's going to be blood spilled. Sorry, my get-along limits stop there.

            Some rich fucker may take your house, my wife took mine with 1 lie.

            Daily I read about courts and how they are unjust. Loosing constitutional rights. I've never had to deal with the courts, so I figured hire a good lawyer and things should be ok. Oh was I wrong.

            2 weeks ago, I'm in the middle of a nasty divorce, my wife called me an abuser, no proof. I was kicked out of my house, ordered to pay for counseling for the children, have to go to eval for being an abuser, and she gets to go to battered women's counseling. She gets 1/2 my pay, and I pay for her lawyer.

            We had people living with us who testified SHE was the abusive one in the relationship. I couldnt believe the male bias I encountered. Male != abuser. I was the one who filed for divorce!

            So, here I am, a working professional, never did anything wrong in my life (well, download an mp3 or 2), and I'm at the mercy of the courts because "For the safety of the children" in the temporary hearings I'm now homeless. Broke from lawyers bills and now have to hire a criminal lawyer on top of it.

            Courts are screwing people over left and right, and this is news? Family court doesn't even have normal oversights, its totally unregulated.

            What's my recourse? Suffer daily or commit suicide. That's what the courts left me with. Suicide rate for divorced men is over 30%, divorce rate is over 50%, and yet, no regulation for fairness for men in family court, no recourse against false allegations.

            I wish I had a constitution blanket, wrap me up and make me feel safe, but thats just lunacy. American men are no longer free, 1 day in court showed me that. Everything I worked for my entire life gone in a day.

            God bless America, men need the miracles.

            -Brook
            http://www.justiceformen.com/ [justiceformen.com]
            • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2005 @07:17PM (#12896067)
              Brook, its not just men that get the shaft in the courts.


              My husband was arrested for abuse. But he had the audacity (and knowledge) to go into court and cry real tears as he claimed I was an alcoholic, neglected the children, and slept around. He said I made false charges of abuse against him when he tried to get me treatment.


              All the judge had to do was read the police report to see he was lying. I didn't drink then, and I don't drink now. I was a hard working, devoted wife and mother. I arrived with a stack of documents and several witnesses willing to testify to those facts. But the judge waived me off, and my husband's lie against me resulted in much the same deal you experienced. Over my frantic objections the judge gave him our house, our business, all of our assets, custody of our children, and all of my personal possessions. I was told to "dry out" and she'd take another look at the case.


              After 25 years of working 80 hour weeks (through pregnancies and nursing babies) and doing without so many things I wanted, in order to insure financial security for my family - I left that courtroom with $12 in my pocket, no job and nowhere to live. The ONLY thing I got that day was child support imputed based on the TOTAL income of our business - something that took me over a dozen years to build up. I could not make a fraction of that on my own.


              The court appointed shrink took a look at my evidence and heard my witnesses. By the third appointment she wrote out a letter saying the court had made a terrible mistake... but by the time I got another hearing TWO YEARS LATER the kids had been seriously abused and everything I owned was gone. He sold it all off and hid the cash. NOTHING was left but a bunch of dysfunctional, angry teenagers.


              I know EXACTLY how you feel, but please, don't think its just MEN. I'm very much female. Our courts SUCK. There's no other word for it. Judges are political hacks that make fast, uninformed decisions based more on prejudice than evidence. Go sit outside family court one day and look at all the people crying, their lives devistated by one stroke of the gavel. They aren't all male.

      • The conservatives are really tripping over themselves on this one. In their haste to let the state's decide their own fate, they lost sight of the vital role of the government to protect individuals from people who would take their property away from them.

        The SCOTUS is also supposed to be in the position to identify a nasty slippery slope when they see one. Here, people are left wondering: "if my government comes up with what they think is a better use for my land, can they take it without asking permiss
        • by DanEsparza (208103) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:37PM (#12894390) Homepage
          Ummm ... hmmm.. Conservatives? Wow. Sounds like you have a beef against people like me. Guess what: I'm a conservative. And you know what you might find rather surprising? It was the conservative judges that were dissenting:

          From http://apnews.myway.com/article/20050623/D8ATDSD80 .html [myway.com]

          O'Connor was joined by
          Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist (conservative)
          Antonin Scalia (conservative)
          Clarence Thomas (conservative)

          O'Connor's dissent was surprisingly terse and (*gasp*) conservative!

          From http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/23/politics/23wire- scotus.html?incamp=article_popular_4 [nytimes.com]

          In a bitter dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the majority had created an ominous precedent. "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," she wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

          "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private property, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.

          "As for the victims," Justice O'Connor went on, "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

          It pisses me off when people jump to conclusions without hearing all the facts. Next time, please do your homework first. -D

    • by DigitalRaptor (815681) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:18PM (#12894075) Homepage
      Exept for one problem. It undermines the US Constitution.

      Basic property rights shouldn't have to be defined 50 times in 50 different constitutions and fought in the courts of 50 different states.

      The whole point of the Constitution is to protect the rights of all US citizens, regardless of which state they live in.

    • by Daniel Boisvert (143499) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:19PM (#12894085)
      Their deferral to the legislature for such a pointedly Constitutional issue is worrying. Everything I have to say about this was already said better in Justice O'Connor's and Justice Thomas's dissenting opinions though, so I'll just point folks there [findlaw.com].
    • Oh yes it is (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Concern (819622) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:27PM (#12894246) Journal
      the supreme court doesn't feel it's their job the decide what falls within the "public good" clause of eminent domain.

      It's the court's job, and indeed a grave necessity, for them to rule on matters of constitutionality. Whether or not states set limits on eminent domain, the court must decide if those limits are constitutional.

      By taking the position you describe, SCOTUS has nullified the entire concept of "public good." Since anything can now qualify as a public good and pass the constitutional test, it is exactly as if they redacted the words directly from the parchment.

      Yes, this means that they effectively repealed a rather important portion of the 5th amendment by fiat.

      Private property is now a fiction in the United States. "Property" is now redefined as something that you temporarily occupy under the consent and sufference of your local political majority.

      This signals the beginning of a campaign of legal home invasion, as wealthy and politically-connected people will wield the government to transfer the property of others to themselves. Despotism, by any other name.

      The end result will be familiar to anyone who'se lived in a radically unjust society: violence.
    • by jpetts (208163) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:27PM (#12894249)
      The interesting thing about the split from my point of view was that it allied O'Connor (who wrote the dissent) and Thomas with Scalia and Rehnquist.

      I read most of the opinions of SCOTUS, and the dissent in this case was a great piece of judicial writing, and very, very stinging. The dissent begins:

      Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:
      "An ACT of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority . . . . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean. . . . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with SUCH powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it." Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted).
      Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded - i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public - in the process.

      This is some of the strongest language that I have ever seen in a dissent from O'Connor, and I am sure that it represents one of the widest divergences that this particular court has expressed. I think it will be tremendously interesting to see how this plays out.

      My particular concern is that this appears to me to be a sweeping decision that that is being sweetened with the idea of pre-existingh checks and balances that will act as a bulwark against abuses. I simply don't believe this. Given the increasingly corporatist leanings of the executive and legislature, I am very, very sad to see the judiciary handing down this opinion, as I believe now that corporations will be able to force the exercise of eminent domain purely by financial muscle, and with an opinion of this sort from SCOTUS, it's going to be very, VERY difficult for people who want to stand against it.

      What price now the Fourth Amendment?
    • No, it's worse. (Score:5, Informative)

      by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:28PM (#12894251) Journal
      From TFA:
      Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

      In this instance, the judges say that local officials know best. (Never mind what the owners of the land think.)

      The part that makes this really bad is that the Court isn't looking at the law and the Constitution, but at the circumstances. They're supposed to be judging the law, not making new laws as they did here.

      A similar thing happened in the medical marijuana case. The judges said that they thought the "medical" thing was a sham, that this was all about people wanting a way around Federal drug laws. They had no legal basis for that finding, it was just what they thought about the issue. So they allowed the extension of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution to include the doctor-patient relationship.

      These decisions are symptomatic of an out of control Court.

  • by alvinrod (889928) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:10PM (#12893941)
    It sounds almost as though we can start making Soviet America jokes now instead.

    In Soviet America, private property seizes local government.

    This is really a sad day.

  • We only have the illusion of a free market in this country. From agricultural subsidies to tarrifs on trade to tax write offs for big corporations. And now we have this. You don't even own the things you own, unless you are rich, and then you own everything that poor people own, if you want it.

    In Soviet Amerika, all your house are belong to the rich.
  • Bogus! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Uruk (4907) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:11PM (#12893959)
    I've posted other comments here [blogspot.com] about this, but here's the basic review:

    The city government claims they seized the property for economic development, as part of a larger plan. Sure, the property is going to be turned over to a commercial developer, but it's "public use" of the land because of the larger economic development plan.

    The state courts: Well, the city says their main reason for doing it is public use, not to benefit Pfizer, so it must be public use!

    The supreme courts: We'll let the state courts worry about this. They said it's public use, so it probably is. Therefore, it's OK for the city to seize the land.

    This is not the building of new roads, this is not the elimination of blight, this is a real estate development deal, and people are losing their houses over it. Does this frighten anybody but me?

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:14PM (#12894006)
    Let's get this out of the way right off the bat:

    For the record, O'Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas were in the dissent. The minority. The losers. The folks saying "no, the government doesn't have the right to take private land from some citizens on behalf of other private citizens as long as there are a few extra tax dollars to be picked up in the process".

    If you want to argue party politics ("It's all Bush's fault, favoring Special Interests"), there are plenty of threads where you can do so and still be on-topic.

    Unless you're so blinded by partisan politics that you consider O'Connor, Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas to be liberals (well, at least for today), this isn't one of those threads.

    This isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats. It's about libertarians vs. statists.

    • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:59PM (#12895375)
      Unless you're so blinded by partisan politics that you consider O'Connor, Scalia, Rehnquist, and Thomas to be liberals (well, at least for today), this isn't one of those threads.

      Labels mean nothing. Most people are blinded by partisan politics that they think George Bush is a conservative. He's certainly not liberal, but he definatly is not conservative.

      If anything, he's a liar, power hungry oppurtunist that exploits our laws, and our military for personal wealth.

      A typical rich man, not a typical conservative.

      One of these days the rich real realize that it's the poor that go to war.... and the poor may just point the guns back at the rich.
  • by DogDude (805747) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:14PM (#12894010) Homepage
    Historians in 100+ years may look back and say that this was the real beginning of the end of US society as we know it. Why? Virtually any sociologist or related scientist will tell you that the basis for a civilized society are strong property rights.

    Personally, I'm disgusted by the ruling. We're going to see *massive*, third-world level corruption appearing in the headlines any time now. It'll be easy for developers to pay off the local gov't to kick people off of their land so that we can have yet another strip mall. This has got to be one of the worst rulings in the recent history of the Supreme Court.
  • by DeafDumbBlind (264205) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:15PM (#12894020)
    Thomas and Scalia in a disenting opinion.

    What's the world coming to???

    WTF were the other 5 bozos thinking??
  • by Anonymous Monkey (795756) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:16PM (#12894044)
    I'm sory Mr. Dent, but you can't fight city hall!
  • by l2718 (514756) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:19PM (#12894086)

    Reading the ruling [akamaitech.net], I find the dissents by O'Connor and Thomas much more perusasive. The ruling amounts to saying that, starting today, if others can use your property in a way that will be better for the general public, for example if:

    1. they will pay more taxes than you do now; or,
    2. the public will find the house they will build more aesthetically pleasing than yours is; or,
    3. they bribe the local politicians more than you can afford.
    then the government can simply take away your property and give it to them.

    Of course you have to be "justly compensated". However, all this means is you will get back the "market value" of your property, i.e. what it is worth to a random person on the street. That could be very different from what it is worth to you, or even what it is worth to the developer who will get it and profit from it. Unlike normal economics, where the developers will have to pay based on what they can use the property for, the fair market value will depend on what you are using the property for today. And you personal enjoyment of living in a home you've owned for a long time doesn't factor into that.

    Do you think Ms. Dery, who is 87 years old and lives in the house she was born in will be compensated for value of that? She only will be compensated for the value of the house assuming it was sold for profit.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:23PM (#12894166)
    So now if you have a prime piece of property, say with a nice view, and someone else with better political connections wants to force you to sell it to him, the Supreme Court of the United States says this is just fine with them.

    What amazes me here is that the "liberal" wing of the court has ruled against the "little guy" single homeowner, and in favor of the wealthy corporations who can buy political influence easier than I can buy a loaf of bread. And the "conservative" wing is actually standing up for the little guy against the wealthy corporations who make millions in redevelopment. Who would'da thought?

  • Blighted areas (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:25PM (#12894201) Journal
    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.

    Actually, even this argument would not be good enough in some towns, since they have defined "blighted area" so broadly that almost any older home qualifies. For instance, some have legislated that a home without an attached garage is "blighted".

  • Good for democracy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smagruder (207953) <stevem@webcommons.biz> on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:44PM (#12894499) Homepage

    Strangely enough, this SCOTUS ruling could be a potential boon for local democracy and activism in the United States.

    If indeed the ramifications are not "random", as Justice O'Connor put it (and I think she's right), then what we'll see are pitched local battles taking place across the entire nation, with commercial developers vs., well, the people. This may finally be the tipping point that wakes everyone up and sparks a vast new wave of civic activism. After all, the "local authorities" are democratically elected, and if they go off the deep end with seizing private property for pure commercial interests, it won't be long before people get out their pitchforks, so to speak.

  • Disease (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Associate (317603) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @04:57PM (#12894662) Homepage
    Decisions like this breed domestic terrorism.
  • by Snerdley (98439) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:09PM (#12894834)
    From the dissent:

    "Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process."

    The sole argument for the misappropriation of these properties seems to be that the overall tax coffers would benefit. That is, there will be higher property, income, and sales taxes due to the economic development.

    Now, I'm as pro-business as you'll find on /. (I've been hammered here before for it.). But what about private property that simply doesn't generate tax revenue?

    Churches would be poster-children here: they provide no tax revenue (property, sales, etc), and generally, they exist in spite of popular opinion: a 80% baptist (or catholic/muslim/jewish/etc) community could very easily decide that the property of a minority religion's church is simply expendable.

    This opens doors of corruption, discrimination, and hatred on a scale that simply frightens me.

    I hope they designate a church on one of those properties quickly (before the bulldozers get there) so that this goes back up on a (slightly) stronger ammendment claim (the First!).

    One final thought: I have yet to find ANYONE who thinks this is a good idea! I've heard people blame it on the "corporate elite" (presumably right-wing), and on the "socialists and statists", but nobody's claiming this as their own! How do we get a majory of justices on the SCOTUS that nobody agrees with??
  • by Bruha (412869) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @05:22PM (#12895015) Homepage Journal
    If you're likely to fit into the group that buys a house and stays put until you die then you could be harmed by this ruling.

    A person who buys and works 30 years to pay off their house in anticipation of living on their retirement (Fixed income). Typically these neighborhoods will go down in value as the houses age over the years. The property will probably retain or increase in value.

    Perhaps it's lakefront property that you bought 30 years ago when the city did not even incorporate in that area and you were rural. But urban sprawl eventually caused to be in the city's influence.

    Now the city is looking for more tax revenue due to their overspending and have limited options for development. Rather than raise the taxes on the whole to make up for this, or the citizens deal with the big spenders through the elective process those council members hear from private developers that you have some land they are interested in. So they begin the process of condeming property to allow the developer to take over.

    Now the neighborhood is a bit run down but it's a quality place to live and many living there are fixed income retirees. The city is now telling them to move and a house that normally woudl be worth 200,000 dollars is only being offered 60,000 dollars. These people cannot afford to move because nowhere in the immediate area can you buy a brand new house for 60,000 dollars. In fact that barely would make the 20% payment requirements now due to inflation.

    So in essence you're kicking these people on the streets, or they get new houses and work till the day they die and instead of their house going to their kids or grandchildren it gets repossessed and your investement for the enjoyment of your family is gone forever.

    The only way it can be fair compensation is if these people are relocated into a paid off house with sufficient tax breaks on the house as to facilitate the ability to live as before with possibly some money on the side to help with the loss of a treasured property. To not offer that at the minimum should be illegal. The developer could afford it, and there's no reason they can just come along and uproot your entire life and financial future just to build something so they can make money.
  • by jdbo (35629) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @06:37PM (#12895751)
    OK, I just read the whole dang thing.

    I have no problem saying that, for this case, the dissenting position should have been the majority position, for reasons beyond the fact that I agree with the immediate outcome.

    I further have no problem in stating that the 3 of the 4 dissenters are the most consistently conservative members of the SCOTUS, while those in the majority vary from conservative to moderately liberal. (There are no currently no consistently liberal voices on the bench)

    However, this does not mean that the majority opinion is "liberal", or even that the dissenting position is necessarily "conservative"; there's somewhat more complex issues at play here.

    Let's consider another rubric, in which we consider the "political inclination" of the reasoning behind the differing opinion, ordered by the weight given in their argumentation:

    Supporting the Majority:
    1. State's Rights / Federal Gov't Defer to State-Level Authority: (the determination of the Conn. Supreme Courts were deferred to); this is "classically conservative" position
    2. Strict Consideration of Law and Precedent: this is rather specific to how the SC conducts its business, but I think it's also fair to say that they used "conservative" reasoning in their approach (i.e. they saw no need to disrupt tradition or precedent, and so sought to follow it)
    3. Favoring the General Public Good over the Individual Public Good: (the specifics of the case were examined and held that the development planning process was handled above board) - favoring the public good is generally considered to be a liberal position, but in the majority opinion there was little emphasis on the "public good" beyond the state's right to determine what this means.

    Supporting the Minority:
    1. Gov't may Not Interfere with Private Property - this is a classically conservative position
    2. Federal Gov't May Override State-level (local) Issues - during the Civil War this defined the "Republican" position - however, since the Civil Rights movement of the 50's and 60's this has been re-framed as the liberal position
    3. Proposed Amendment/Clarification of Existing Legislation - ("Legislating from the bench") - recent propaganda to the contrary, "activist judges" are liberal, conservative, moderate, or whatever. However, this sort of activity may be seen as procedurally Liberal (i.e. it makes waves) just as stricter interpretations make be seen as procedurally Conservative.

    My conclusion is that while it is probably fair to label the dissenting opinion as an argument rising from conservative thinking, I could just as easily label the majority opinion as such.

    Ultimately, I think we have a conflict between Moderate/Conservative process (i.e. the Court not seeking to make waves) and Conservative values (i.e. the underlying goals and ideals of Conservatism).

    Either way this ruling sucks, but it annoys me greatly when
    people look at an issue like this and immediately start to draw party line borders. Nuance can be important.
  • by Brandybuck (704397) on Thursday June 23, 2005 @10:33PM (#12897304) Homepage Journal
    Needless to say, the little guy loses to the commercial developer this case...

    We didn't lose to the commercial developer, we lost to the fucking government! Maybe if we hadn't spent so much time worrying about Evil Business, we might have noticed that our government was reaching critical mass.

    Business isn't the problem. Business don't have the power of eminent domain. Business don't have police and armies. And most of all, businesses don't have court systems arbitrarily deciding to take away the unalienable and natural rights you were born with. Only government does that.

    Business didn't do this, the fucking government did this. And it wasn't the federal government that started it either, but some pissant little city council with too much time on their hands. For all your bitching about Bush or Kerry you never noticed that all the real tyrants in the US are your neighbors on the city council.

    Yes, there are many businesses that lobby and court the government. But don't blame the addict, blame the pusher. Political power wouldn't be for sale if the government didn't put it up for auction to the highest bidder.

    We're screwed now. This is a SCOTUS ruling. There's no one we can appeal this do. The only option we have to get our rights and property back is another revolution. The problem is that no one else but me cares. As long as the stop the Home Depot from building on the empty lot down the street, you guys will let the local government do whatever the fuck they want.

    Emigrating to Iraq or Afghanistan is starting to look better and better. At least they have a future.
  • by houle (790096) on Friday June 24, 2005 @07:20AM (#12899309)
    When I was 8 years old after a long legal battle the CT state department of transportation eminent domained my Family's land and many of our neighbors. They wanted to build a highway that didn't need to be built and for which they had been expressly told by the department of environmental protection that they could never have the permits to build. Among other things we had a river in our back yard, 90% of the land was considered wetlands, and the property abutted Nathan Hale State Forest ( I'll point out some of the land for which was sold to the state at a deep discount by my grandfather who was/is an avid conservationist) My parents were given $180,000 for a house that was appraised at $280,000. Beyond the value of the property my entire extended family lived right in the same area (grandfather was a farmer who gave his land to his children) My aunt and her family lived across the street, and my uncle and his family lived next door. Needless to say my family was scattered after they took their houses too. Today more than 17 years later the highway was never built and the house which my father built with his own hands on land his father gave him sits abandoned. I hope the people in New London stand their ground against the bulldozers. And when the first officer comes to physically remove them from their land I'll be crying tears of joy if they blow his head off with a shotgun.

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