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US court OKs property seizures for private development


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Yesterday they try to pass a law making it illegal to burn an American flag,today the pass this crap...man I really hope this type of attitude never reaches to Canada.


By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that governments can seize property to make room for private development projects to try to boost the economy.

The 5-4 ruling gave the court's blessing to cities across the USA that have sought to use their powers of eminent domain not just to clear the way for public projects such as roads and parks, but also for private developments involving hotels, offices and retail centers. The justices rejected a challenge by homeowners in New London, Conn., who are fighting the city's plans to take their property for such a project along the Thames River. (Related: Court's opinion)

The ruling produced a sharp dissent from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who warned that it will allow local governments to seize any property simply to allow developers to upgrade it. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory," said O'Connor, who was joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in a dissent that emphasized the rights of property owners.

The case was a key test of such rights, and of how far governments can go in trying revitalize areas. The Constitution's Fifth Amendment allows government to take property as long as "just compensation" is paid and the property is converted to a "public use." The dispute in the Connecticut case was over whether a city's seizure of land for private economic development was a legitimate public use.

Susette Kelo and the other owners of 14 homes along the Thames River in New London challenged the plan to take their property for a project that will include a hotel, office complexes and a marina. The project is intended to complement a Pfizer research plant nearby.

Kelo's lawyers from the Washington-based Institute for Justice urged the court to find that cities cannot seize land that is not blighted for private development.

In rebuffing that argument, the court's majority said that past high court rulings give local officials wide latitude to use the power of eminent domain. "Promoting economic development is a ... long-accepted function of government," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. He noted that the project was expected to generate jobs and increase tax revenue.

The majority included the court's four more liberal justices. The key fifth vote was Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative at the court's ideological center. He said judges reviewing challenges to property seizures should presume that local officials acted reasonably — but that they should make sure that such seizures don't merely reflect favoritism toward developers.

Daniel Krisch, a lawyer for New London, said hearings were held on the project over several years. Kelo countered, "I am very disappointed that the court sided with powerful government and business interests."

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.


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