The Ohio Supreme Court Gets It Right on Private Property Rights

It seems the Ohio Supreme Court has a better handle on private property rights than the US Supreme Court:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that a Cincinnati suburb cannot take private property by eminent domain for a $125 million project of offices, shops and restaurants.

The case was the first challenge of property rights laws to reach a state high court since the
U.S. Supreme Court last summer allowed municipalities to seize homes for use by a private developer.

The case involves the city of Norwood, which used its power of eminent domain to seize properties holding out against private development in an area considered to be deteriorating.

The court found that economic development isn’t a sufficient reason under the state constitution to justify taking homes.

In the ruling, Justice Maureen O’Connor said cities may consider economic benefits but that courts deciding such cases in the future must “apply heightened scrutiny” to assure private citizens’ property rights.

“For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house,” she wrote. “It is the taking of a home — the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made,”

Targeting property because it is in a deteriorating area also is unconstitutional because the term is too vague and requires speculation, the court found.

O’Connor wrote that the court attempted in its decision to balance “two competing interests of great import in American democracy: the individual’s rights in the possession and security of property, and the sovereign’s power to take private property for the benefit of the community.”

This is exceptionally good news for Ohio property owners. Read a copy of the preliminary decision here (.pdf file). More on the decision here.

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