Skip to comments.Eminent Disaster
Posted on 03/13/2014 12:19:12 PM PDT by Kaslin
NEARLY NINE years have elapsed since the US Supreme Court, in one of its most notorious rulings, decided that seven homeowners in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn., had no property rights which City Hall was bound to respect. Today Fort Trumbull is a wasteland, as a detailed new report confirms.
The court's 2005 holding inKelo v. City of New Londongave local officials a green light to seize and demolish private homes through eminent domain, then turn the land over to developers itching to build something more lucrative. In Fort Trumbull, those private homeowners included people such as Susette Kelo, a local nurse who bought her little Victorian cottage on the Thames River because she loved its waterfront view; Wilhelmina Dery, who was born in her house on Walbach Street in 1918 and had been living there all her life; and Pasquale and Margherita Cristofaro, whose home on Goshen Street was the second New London property they lost to eminent domain, the first having been taken 30 years earlier because the city intended to construct a seawall. (The seawall was never built.)
Their homes, like those of their neighbors, were targeted at the urging of Pfizer, Inc. The pharmaceutical giant was building a major research facility nearby and wanted city officials to pave the way for a "world-class redevelopment" that would appeal to the business leaders, scientists, and other professionals the new headquarters was expected to attract. "Pfizer wants a nice place to operate," a supercilious executive said in 2001. "We don't want to be surrounded by tenements."
The Fifth Amendment's "Takings Clause" authorizes eminent-domain takings, but only when property is needed "for public use" for example, to build a post office, widen a road, or create a reservoir. Fort Trumbull's homeowners argued all the way up to the Supreme Court that their homes weren't being seized for "public use" but for private use. Under the Constitution, they insisted, the city had no right to forcibly transfer their property to a private developer in the hope that new development would yield higher tax revenues or new jobs.
But five justices John Paul Stevens, Steven Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy decided otherwise. With their imprimatur, New London confiscated the modest but well-cared-for homes of Fort Trumbull. The last remaining owners were forced out. The bulldozers moved in. The land was cleared for the kind of upscale redevelopment that Pfizer and its political allies in New London craved: a posh hotel, a conference center, a condominium complex, a health club, and high-end shops.
And how did it all end up?
When journalist Charlotte Allen went recently to New London to find out, what she found, as she reported in the Weekly Standard, was "a vast, empty field ? ?90 acres ? ?that was entirely uninhabited and looked as though it had always been that way." There is no hotel, no health club, no condos. The neighborhood that for generations had been home to working-class families like the Derys and Cristofaros is now a "deserted incline," where the only signs of life are "waist-high dead weeds."
The homeowners were dispossessed for nothing. Fort Trumbull was never redeveloped. Pfizer itself bailed out of New London in 2009. Kelo was a disaster, as even the city's present political leaders acknowledge. Allen writes that the current mayor, who was elected in 2011, has formally apologized to the Kelo plaintiffs, calling the decision a "black stain" on New London's reputation. City officials agreed to install a plaque on the heights above the Thames in memory of Margherita Cristofaro, who died during the long legal battle. It notes that she and her family "made significant contributions to the Italian-American community, sacrificing two family homes to the eminent domain process."
If anything good came of Kelo, it was the furious nationwide backlash, which led a number of states Massachusetts, unfortunately not among them to pass new laws protecting property ownersfrom abusive eminent-domain takings. But such still happens, and will go on happening until Kelo is overruled.
The founders put the Takings Clause in the Bill of Rights for a reason. The desolation that is Fort Trumbull is a grim reminder that where property rights aren't secure, neither is freedom and without freedom, there is nothing the government can't destroy.
I take it the author doesn't like Federalism or the Tenth Amendment. IMO, Kelo was correctly decided, regardless of the outrage perpetrated by the City of New London. Be careful what you wish for if you want the Feds securing your rights against the States.
It took 30 years for SCOTUS to recognize GM’s “Poletown” disaster. It might take a few more for this one.
I'm disagreeing that Kelo was decided correctly.
The pro-judges saying effectively saying that if the "victims" don't like it, they could vote the the perpetrating rascals out.
Kelo will NEVER be overturned. Our rulers must preserve the expansive but bastardized view of “public purpose” which together with equally unsupprotable and expansive interpretations of “general welfare” and “commerce” are used to wholesale turn the framers constitution on its head to allow for socialism to be the norm in this country. We need a revolution. As the people are just saying NO to obamacare, we need to just say NO to many other unconstitutional acts of the Federal government, despite what the Supremes say. A proud “wacko bird.”
Curious as to why you believe Kelo was correctly decided.
State governments have the legal power to tax, upon the limits of which the Constitution is mute.
Read the article I linked; then comment. This isn't about whether you like what the City of New London did or not; it is about whether it was within their legal authority.
Mystery Babylon at your disservice.
It's about the Tenth Amendment, Federalism, and States' Rights. When the Feds gain the power to enforce a right, they gain the power to violate it, which would result in the watered down protections we see for everyone with no alternative. As the article above said, after Kelo, many States instituted property rights protections against eminent domain superior to the Constitution, while others did not. Natural Law competition will show which is superior (and as you know, I side with protections for private property).
If you read the piece I linked (which I wrote), you'll see what I mean, especially as regards Federal enforcement of individual rights by "Selective Incorporation."
I’m not following your line of reasoning. Are you saying Kelo was decided correctly because it compelled States to pass laws on abuses of eminent domain?
What about the 5th Amendment? Was Kelo decided correctly with respect to the 5th Amendment?
My family used to vacation at a small cabin near a lake in Northern California — when the land lease was up, the park service refused to renew, evicted the owners and razed the cabin to the ground, saying the land was needed for campgrounds.
This was in the late 70s and to this day the campground was never built and the lot is empty.
I despise the people behind the Kelo taking, but the case was correctly decided. As for those who killed the development, I’m thrilled. I wrote to the developers to let them know I would never shop there, as did many others.
I am saying it was correctly decided because it left that decision up to the States.
What about the 5th Amendment? Was Kelo decided correctly with respect to the 5th Amendment?
Not with respect to the Constitution as designed, because its enumerated powers were to limit only what the Federal government could do, not the several States. The 14th Amendment changed all that, much to the damage of the Republic. So your question should properly have been whether the 5th Amendment should have been incorporated under the 14th Amendment by the decision (which it did not). Should you decide that enforcing the 5th Amendment against State and local government is proper, then you have little respect for the 10th Amendment and Federalism.
There are trade-offs in such preferences with which the article I linked deals. It is worth your time. I don't like writing answers to questions with which I've already dealt in depth. Please read it before asking more questions. Should be unsure about some of its positions, the thread upon which it was first posted here on FR contains an extensive discussion about it (150+ posts).
Just another thing for a conservative congress and POTUS to fix.
To start with, a conservative congress and POTUS need an act which returns the vast majority of federal land takings to the states.
The federal government owns roughly 635-640 million acres, 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.
62% of Alaska is federally owned, as is 47% of the 11 coterminous western states. Most of it should be returned.
Next, congress must set up major walls to future land takings, both public and private, and strictly limit what can be taken for things like endangered species, wetlands, non-navigable waters, reefs, and other federal projects.
Then finally, congress needs to direct the Supreme Court that rulings like Kelo violate the intent of the clear language of the constitution and should be reversed.
That ruling was the first Police State ruling... and it’s a little horror...
I would like the property of John Paul Stevens, Steven Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony Kennedy and their families taken from them.
That would be justice...