Monday, February 21, 2005

Can Your Town Take Your Home?

It's a debate about eminent domain at Legal Affairs Debate Club:
This week, the Supreme Court hears the case of Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn. [Kelo v. New London]. The city intends to evict these residents and develop their waterfront neighborhood claiming that doing so will enhance the city's tax-base.

The Fifth Amendment describes the power of eminent domain as a taking for public use with fair compensation. Kelo and her neighbors argue that expropriation of their property for a redevelopment project cannot be a "public use" if private developers eventually will possess the land.

Is New London taking the principle of eminent domain too far?
The debaters are Richard A. Epstein, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, and J. Peter Byrne, Professor of Law at Georgetown University. Round 1 is over and it's already a TKO, in favor of Epstein. But Byrne is so groggy that he doesn't know that the fight is over.

Talk about being mentally flabby, here's Byrne's final punch of round 1:
Judgments about the wisdom of the project should be left to the people of Connecticut and New London, where the constitution places it.
The Constitution, quite obviously, places the judgment in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether the Court will do the right thing and find for Kelo is another matter. If Byrne is to be believed (a dubious proposition), U.S. Supreme Court precedent is on the side of New London. Fortunately, perhaps, there's more recent and directly applicable precedent in the reversal of Poletown.