The Supreme Court did a number on the Fifth Amendment today. This decision is sure to get people fired up.
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 – assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as handing “disproportionate influence and power” to the well-heeled in America – was a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had 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.
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.Scott Bullock, the attorney for the Institute for Justice who represented the families, said: “A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result.”
Unfortunately none of those justices are among those rumored to be retiring…
Update: Bryan, at Arguing with signposts, has a massive reaction roundup.