"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fifth Amendment Ist Kaput

I strongly believe that the most siginificant and egregious Supreme Court decision in recent years was the Court's June 23 ruling that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses so that they may be destroyed and the land used by private developments that are expected to generate greater tax revenues. In the past, "eminent domain" decisions of this type had to be based on a serious public purpose, even though this limitation was often ignored. The June 23 decision, however, opens the floodgates fully. If your local government decides that it can obtain more tax money from somebody else who covets your land, that will suffice to allow the government to seize it, provided that it pays you the market price for it. Of course, if somebody wants your land and you don't want to sell it, you are out of luck. It's theirs.

The clauses of the Fifth Amendment designed to prevent governments from seizing private property for anything other than the most urgent purposes, have now been entirely cast aside. A local or state government can condemn your property and give it to another individual or group to use in some way the government prefers, typically in a manner expected to generate greater local tax revenues. This is utterly awful and is one of the most outrageous incursions on our liberties that has ever been attempted. It is a pity that very little media attention has been given to this matter, although perhaps not surprising in that U.S. media outlets are largely owned by corporations that hope and expect to benefit from this ability to use government to pave the way for the corporations' desired schemes for your land and mine.

I hope that the project to take Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home away from him will bring some much-needed attention to this issue. Read about it here, and please write your state and federal legislators to give your opinions about this matter.

4 comments:

Hunter Baker said...

I'm with you. It's a serious outrage. It's one thing to invoke eminent domain to keep a highway project going. It's quite something else to make way for Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

This is easy to fix. The Republican congress just needs to pass a bill preventing this type of abuse, and our Republican president needs to sign the bill. Since, as the Supreme Court recently ruled, everything is related to interstate commerce, this should be within Congress's powers.

Tlaloc said...

While it dioes seem a bad decision it's not nearly as earthshattering as people are making it out to be. It's a fairly minor change from what the state already had license to do (which to be clear I do think was already going too far).

see here:
http://www.cjrdaily.org/archives/001630.asp

In other words it was a chisel, not a wrecking ball, on the fifth amendment.

Jay D. Homnick said...

As I noted in a comment at the Law Jedi's blog, I have offered a slogan to adorn our new Constitution:

Souter Bull For Framing.