As evidenced by the 2,146,316 flag amendment posts over the last few days, I’m a bit bothered up about it. But as Wendy pointed out in comments last night, there is another legal travesty in the news. In a (not really) stunning decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. New London. Here is a summary of the decision:
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a city can take a person’s home as part of a private development project aimed at boosting tax revenues and revitalizing a local economy, a decision that could have nationwide impact.
By a 5-4 vote, the high court upheld a ruling that New London, Connecticut, can seize the homes and businesses owned by seven families for a private development project that will complement a nearby research facility by the Pfizer Inc. drug company.
I admit that I’m not a lawyer, although I play one on RollingDoughnut.com. Sometimes, such as in this case, I admit that I don’t know as much as I should. I’m only basing my argument on standard, obvious logic. But I know enough to realize that this case is an abomination. However, since there are sufficient commentaries all over the internets, I’m not going to contribute anything other than to point to two of particular interest.
In a blistering dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor lamented that the decision meant that the government could transfer any private property from the owner to another person with more political influence “so long as it might be upgraded.” That is a serious concern, but her fears are exaggerated. The majority strongly suggested that eminent domain should be part of a comprehensive plan, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing separately, underscored that its goal cannot simply be to help a developer or other private party become richer.
That is not the situation in New London. Connecticut is a rich state with poor cities, which must do everything they can to attract business and industry. New London’s development plan may hurt a few small property owners, who will, in any case, be fully compensated. But many more residents are likely to benefit if the city can shore up its tax base and attract badly needed jobs.
Do you believe that some hack politician being
bribed lobbied by a real estate company will make sure that eminent domain is “part of a comprehensive plan”? Right, neither do I. As for “fully compensated”, family history and memories can’t get an appropriate price tag. How does a city compensate a family whose house has eight years of height lines etched into the kitchen door frame? How exciting will it be for a man to take his kids to his boyhood home and point out the nice backyard parking lot where he used to play catch with his dad? Cash isn’t always king.
On a different angle, consider reasoning from KipEsquire:
Wouldn’t it be nice if all those grass-root, “let the voters decide,” Red State, “damn activist judges” types put as much effort into enacting state constitutional amendments limiting eminent domain as they did discriminating against gays? You might think people like that would care more about keeping their own homes than what goes on in their neighbors’ homes. We’ll see.
It’s an argument that some might not like, but he’s right. So, yeah, people can think what they want about social issues like same-sex marriage and flag desecration, but there are more important issues with a more fundamental, long-term impact on the United States.
So, yeah, although five Justices and the New York Times think this decision makes sense, I’m with everyone else. It pisses me off, too.