Statement of Ralph Nader on the Supreme Court Eminent Domain Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v City of New London mocks common sense, tarnishes constitutional law and is an affront to fundamental fairness.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution permits government to seize private property for a "public use," such as a highway, railroad, or military facility, provided it gives the owner "just compensation." Many state constitutions have similar provisions. But in modern times it has become common for the government, usually at the state or local level, to seize property and transfer it to another private party rather than maintaining it for public use.

Hundreds of abuses of eminent domain have occurred during the last few decades, with municipalities playing reverse Robin Hood‚ taking from ordinary citizens and giving to powerful individual developers or corporations. In many cases, the alleged public benefit is a transparent cover for what amounts to legalized theft.

With today's decision, the Court has abdicated its role as guardian of the Constitution and individual rights. This decision authorizes courts across the country to allow self- defining misuses of "public use" and "public benefit" requirements. State courts, however, remain free to interpret their own constitutions as imposing more reasonable restraints on government taking of individual property.

For a more detailed discussion of this topic see: Ralph Nader & Alan Hirsch, "Making Eminent Domain Humane," 49 Villanova Law Review 207 (2004).

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