Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Supreme Courts, Kelo Decision

A quick summation.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to condemn private property and compensate the owners if the land is for public use.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that local governments may use the governmental right of eminent domain to seize people's homes and businesses for private economic development.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

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.

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

She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

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IMO, at the heart of the matter is this.

Individual rights vrs group rights.

Should the Government be able to 'take' the possessions of an individual to enhance itself, (in this case by increasing the amount of property tax revenues)?

Almost all Conservatives, all true Libertarians and probably an overwhelming majority of self described Liberals are against this decision. But why?

Conservatives and Libertarians are for limitation of government and individual rights as a matter of political and moral philosophy.

The Liberals, I have talked to, seem to hold some kind of nebulous position that they are for "the little guy". That position is about as deep as the scratches in the paint on my car!

Can we assume that if Mrs Kelo had millions of dollars and wasn't blind, Liberals would be for taking her house?

Lets remember what actually happened. As a result of this decision, cities have the wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

Justices said, local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community.

"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," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

A sad, sad, day on the Supreme court. I can think of no better reason to appoint Justices that will interpret according to the original meaning of the Constitution. In this case, the Constitution would not allow condemnation because the land will go to a private developer and not be for public use.

5 comments:

Jason_Pappas said...

This decision has come as a shock to many. This is good in that it will hopefully wake people up. While it is true that left-liberals only oppose the decision because they take one groups side as opposed to the other, perhaps, they might start to realize that you may be “the people” today but might be sacrificed in the name of “the people” tomorrow.

What’s interesting is the story that’s not being told. Why couldn’t Pfizer buy land in New London? Surely, if the economy is so bad (the justification for New London’s subsidy of new business) there should be land for sale. Of course, government regulations – zoning, anti-growth measures, environmental regulations, etc – prevent the usage of land in the first place. Thus, one taking (by regulation and restrictions) has led to another by outright confiscation. Damn! Why am I not reading about this? Of course, it’s the old story of unintended consequences of economic policies that goes back to Bastiat. Henry Hazlitt, in his classic Economics in One Lesson, follows in the footsteps of Bastiat in exposing economic fallacies and ignorance. Perhaps someone is writing about this today and I just missed it.

Always On Watch said...

I hate to use this cliche, but here it is anyway: "a slippery slope."

Justice O'Connor's dissent was eloquent and a warning cry. I just hope that Jason is correct in that people will wake up as a result of this recent decision. I'm not very hopeful, though.

Esther said...

This is such a horrible decision from a reckless court. It's ushering in a dark day. Here's hoping Congress can do something.

Warren said...

Jason said:
[...]"perhaps, they might start to realize that you may be "the people" today but might be sacrificed in the name of "the people" tomorrow."

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, (to paraphrase), 'A government powerful enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take everything you have.'

Being the, "little guy", doesn't make one virtuous anymore than being the big guy makes you unworthy of justice. That is why we are supposed to be a nation of laws.

If those laws only apply after we go through the (little guy, big guy) test , what use are they?

If the court is lapsing into Socialism, perhaps Bernard Sanders should replace Justice O'Connor!

Why couldn't Pfizer buy land in New London?

They could, but why pay premium prices and have to bargain with each land owner when you can bribe the city council and take it for so-called "fair market value".

[sarcasm]We couldn't very well have Capitalism, now could we.[/sarcasm]

What New London needs is my local enviro-commie. He's honest, (he says bribed), he opposed the local river boat casino until they paid him a $125K consultant fee!

This whole business stinks, from the bottom up.


Always On Watch,
I'm not very hopeful either.

Esther,
It has always been in the power of Congress to do something about those decisions.

It was never intended by the framers that the Supreme Court be the ultimate law making body, only the court of last resort.

Read Article III of the Constitution paying attention to this part:

"In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

Elijah said...

Implicit in this post is the idea that big business and government are somehow in collusion..*gasp*
Its the same deal up here, if they need it they take it.
What burns my ass is the developers pack as many houses, therefore people and cars into a smaller and smaller space with no regard for traffic, congestion etc.
The house I grew up in was in an older area of the city and had a huge lot of land for a subdivision, trust me.. I cut the grass. Now homes in subdivisions have a "green strip"
Now homes have a green strip..lol