New London, Connecticut

Kelo v. New London
Lawsuit Challenging Eminent Domain Abuse in New London, Connecticut

Susette Kelo received notice of condemnation from the NLDC (New London Development Corporation) the day before Thanksgiving 2000.

Susette Kelo dreamed of owning a home that looked out over the water. She purchased and lovingly restored her little pink house where the Thames River meets the Long Island Sound in 1997, and had enjoyed the great view from its windows. The Dery family, up the street from Susette, had lived in Fort Trumbull since 1895; Matt Dery and his family lived next door to his mother and father.  Matt’s mother was born in her house in 1918 and had never lived anywhere else.  The richness and vibrancy of this neighborhood reflected the American ideal of community and the dream of homeownership.

Tragically, the City of New London turned that dream into a nightmare.

In 1998, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer built a plant next to Fort Trumbull and the City determined that someone else could make better use of the land than the Fort Trumbull residents. The City handed over its power of eminent domain—the ability to take private property for public use—to the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), a private body, to take the entire neighborhood for private development. As the Fort Trumbull neighbors found out, when private entities wield government’s awesome power of eminent domain and can justify taking property with the nebulous claim of “economic development,” all homeowners are in trouble.

The fight over Fort Trumbull eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court in 2005, in one of the most controversial rulings in its history, held that economic development was a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision against Kelo and her neighbors sparked a nation-wide backlash against eminent domain abuse, leading eight state supreme courts and 43 state legislatures to strengthen protections for property rights.  Moreover, Kelo educated the public about eminent domain abuse, and polls consistently show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to Kelo and support efforts to change the law to better protect home and small business owners.  Moreover, in the five years since the Kelo decision, citizen activists have defeated 44 projects that sought to abuse eminent domain for private development.   

Meanwhile, in New London, the Fort Trumbull project has been a dismal failure.  After spending close to 80 million in taxpayer money, there has been no new construction whatsoever and the neighborhood is now a barren field.  In 2009, Pfizer, the lynchpin of the disastrous economic development plan, announced that it was leaving New London for good, just as its tax breaks are set to expire. 

But Susette Kelo’s iconic little pink house was saved and moved to a new location.  You can visit the historic, Kelo House, which is now the home of local preservationist Avner Gregory, at its new location in downtown New London: 36 Franklin Street (at the intersection of Franklin and Cottage Streets).

For a compelling account of the history and back-story of the New London controversy, read Jeff Benedict’s “Little Pink House:  A True Story of Defiance and Courage” published in 2009 by Grand Central Publishing.

“The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. 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.
—Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Essential Background

Images and Media

Backgrounder: Saving the Skin of Property Owners In Connecticut: New London Residents Fight Eminent Domain Abuse

Video: 5 Year Anniversary of Kelo
Photos: Hundreds Rally To Support New London Homeowners

Latest Release: June Marks 10th Anniversary of Supreme Court’s Infamous Kelo Eminent Domain Ruling (June 2, 2015)

Media: Photos of the June 23, 2005 Press conference at the U.S.S.C.

Media: Download Client photos at their homes
Photos from the oral argument
Client Video: The Story of Susette Kelo 

Launch Release: Institute for Justice Files Lawsuit Challenging Eminent Domain Abuse in New London, Connecticut (December 20, 2000)

Hands Off My Home Campaign materials

From the Argument

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Listen: audio from the U.S. Supreme Court argument of Kelo v. New London

Download IJ's petition for rehearing of Kelo v. New London

Download: transcript of the U.S. Supreme Court argument of Kelo v. New London

Download the U.S. Supreme Court opinion of Kelo v. New London

Download “Friends of the Court” File Briefs Urging U.S. Supreme Court To End Eminent Domain Abuse

Download IJ's U.S. Supreme Court Reply Brief on the Merits

Download IJ's U.S. Supreme Court Brief on the Merits

Download IJ's cert petition for this case

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:

December 20, 2000

Court Filed:

Superior Court of New London


March 13, 2002: Superior Court of New London dismisses 11 out of 15 eminent domain actions.  Both sides appealed


March 3, 2004: Connecticut Supreme Court ruled against property owners by 4-3 vote


April 20, 2004: Connecticut Supreme Court declined to reconsider ruling; issued stay pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court


July 19, 2004:IJ appeals case to U.S. Supreme Court

September 28, 2004: U.S. Supreme Court accepts Kelo case


June 23, 2005: U.S. Supreme Court rules against homeowners

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Eminent Domain: The Movie (June 23, 2014)

 White Paper: Five Years After Kelo: The Sweeping Backlash Against One of the Supreme Court’s Most-Despised Decisions

Release: Eminent Domain: The Movie (September 13, 2011)

Release: Kelo Ruling Marks 5-Year Anniversary Wednesday: 43 States Legislatures & Many State Supreme Courts Reject Ruling, Act to Protect Property from Eminent Domain Abuse (June 22, 2010)

Castle Coalition Legislation Center: Tracking Eminent Domain Reform Legislation since Kelo

Release: The End of an Eminent Domain Error: Pfizer R&D Headquarters Closes in New London, Conn.

Reporters and Editors: Download op-eds for publication

Release: Susette Kelo Lost Her Rights, She Lost Her Property, But She Has Saved Her Home (June 30, 2006)
IJ's first-ever nationwide report on eminent domain abuse: Public Power, Private Gain
Release: One Year After Kelo Home and Small Business Owners to U.S. Senate: Stop Funding Eminent Domain Abuse(June 22, 2006)
Fight eminent domain abuse, become a Castle Coalition member today.
Release: Choice Looms for New London City Council: Abide by Governor’s Call to Return Deeds to Family-Occupied Homes Or Move to Evict Homeowners (June 5, 2006)


Op-eds, News Articles and Links


Article: For lead plaintiff, 'What they did was wrong then, and it's still wrong today' (June 21, 2015)


Article: System worked in wake of historic Kelo ruling (June 19, 2015)


Op-Ed: Eminent domain abuse hurts America: Column USA Today (February 24, 2015)

Release: Connecticut Gov. Rell Clarifies Her Statement: She Supports Returning Deeds to Family-Occupied Homes, With Deadline Passed, New London Homeowners Fight On (June 2, 2006)


Video: Kelo v. City of New London: A Case Study in Judicial Abdication; (February 3, 2011)

Release: Eminent Domain Reform Stalled in the U.S. Senate; Nearly Six Months After U.S. House of Representatives Vote Threat of Eminent Domain Abuse Still Hangs Over Homes, Businesses, Farms and Churches (April 26, 2006)


Article: Activism in Action; Liberty & Law (August 2010)


Video: Kelo: Five Years Later; (June 22, 2010)

Release: Eminent Domain Reform Stalled in the U.S. Senate; Nearly Six Months After U.S. House of Representatives Vote Threat of Eminent Domain Abuse Still Hangs Over Homes, Businesses, Farms and Churches (April 26, 2006) Article: The End of an Eminent Domain Error: Pfizer Closes in New London, Conn. Liberty & Law (February 2010)

Article: From IJ Client to American Folk Hero; Liberty & Law (June 2009)

Release: One Year After Kelo Argument National Property Rights Revolt Still Going Strong(February 21, 2006)

 Article: Kelo Story Becomes Major Book; Liberty & Law (February 2009)


Release: IJ and Homeowners to Connecticut Legislators: Adopt Real Eminent Domain Reform(October 6, 2005)


Video: The Story of Susette Kelo; (December 5, 2008)

Release: NLDC Backs Down, New London Property Owners Safe For Now But Push for Legislative Reform Continues (September 16, 2005)


Article:Ain’t That America? Little Pink House Rises Again; Liberty & Law (August 2008)

Release: NLDC Lies Continue: Associated Press Report Impeaches NLDC Claims That Moratorium Promise Now Only Applies To New Takings(September 13, 2005)

Article: Susette Kelo’s Little Pink House Finds a New Foundation; Liberty & Law (June 2008)

Release: New London Development Corporation Breaks Eminent Domain Moratorium Pledge(September 13, 2005)

Article: 3 Years after Kelo Castle Coalition Inspires and Trains Activists for Victories; Liberty & Law (June 2008)

Release: Author of Kelo Says He Would “Oppose” Eminent Domain Abuse as a Legislator(August 25, 2005)

Article: A Long Road; Susette Kelo Lost Her Rights, But She Will Keep Her Home, Liberty & Law (August 2006)

Release: U.S. Supreme Court Denies Homeowners’ Request to Rehear Kelo(August 22, 2005)

Article: Reality Check:Educating Legislators and the Public About Eminent Domain Abuse; Liberty & Law (December 2005)

Release: Homeowners Ask U.S. Supreme Court: Rehear Eminent Domain Case(July 18, 2005)

Article: Charging Ahead: IJ Mobilizes After the Supreme Court’s Abandonment of the Constitution; Liberty & Law (August 2005)

Release: Grassroots Groundswell Grows Against Eminent Domain Abuse(July 12, 2005)

Article: Kelo v. City of New London Behind the Scenes at IJ, Liberty & Law (April 2005)

Release: IJ’s $3 Million National Campaign Tells Lawmakers: “Hands Off My Home” (June 29, 2005)

Article: Uphill and Against the Odds (December 2004)

Release: Floodgates Open: Tax-Hungry Governments & Land-Hungry Developers Rejoice in Green Light from U.S. Supreme Court (June 29, 2005)

Article: The Patriots of Fort Trumbull (December 2004)

Release: U.S. Supreme Court rules against homeowners (June 23, 2005)

Op-ed: We Happy Few (December 2004)


Release: 25 “Friends of the Court” File Briefs Urging U.S. Supreme Court To End Eminent Domain Abuse (December 9, 2004) Article: Eminent Domain Without Limits? IJ Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Decide (August 2004) 

Release: Institute for Justice Files Opening Brief With U.S. Supreme Court In Vital Case to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse (December 6, 2004)

Article: A Threat To Property Owners (March 5, 2004)  

Release: U.S. Supreme Court Accepts Review Of New London Eminent Domain Abuse Case (September 28, 2004) Article: Seven Fort Trumbull Holdouts Are Down, But Not Out Just Yet (March 4, 2004)  
Release: U.S. Supreme Court Now Considering Whether To End Eminent Domain Abuse (September 8, 2004) Article: Castle Coalition Defends Property Rights Across the Nation (February 2003)

Release: Nobel Prize Winner Supports Homeowners Challenging Eminent Domain Abuse In U.S. Supreme Court Case (August 31, 2004)

Article: Public Use or Private Gain? (December 15, 2002)  
Release: U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Halt Eminent Domain Abuse (July 20, 2004) Article: A Home Worth Fighting For (December 2, 2002)  
Release: Institute for Justice and Fort Trumbull Homeowners Ask Connecticut Supreme Court to Reconsider Decision Permitting Eminent Domain Abuse (March 29, 2004) Article: Four In a Row! IJ Enjoys Four Victories Against Eminent Domain Abuse; Liberty & Law (May 2002)
Release: Connecticut Supreme Court Permits Eminent Domain Abuse; A Majority of the Court Rules Against Homeowners in New London (March 3, 2004) Article: Inside the Courtroom: Eminent Domain Abuse On Trial; Liberty & Law (January 2002)
Release: Amid Eminent Domain Controversy, Congressman Simmons Forced To Withdraw Amendment For Coast Guard Museum (June 12, 2003) Article: Sending in the IJ Cavalry; Liberty & Law (September 2001)
Release: Corporate Welfare vs. Constitutional Rights: Connecticut Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Eminent Domain Abuse (December 2, 2002) Article: Private Property Seizures (July 31, 2001) 
Release: Martin Luther King III Offers Letter of Support For New London Property Owners In Eminent Domain Fight (December 2, 2002) Article: IJ Sponsored Movie Is Big Hit in New London; Liberty & Law (May 2001)

Release: New London Families Ask Connecticut Supreme Court To Save Their Homes and Land from City & NLDC (July 2, 2002)

Article: Property Seizures overstep boundaries of ‘public use’ (March 21, 2001)  

Release: Institute for Justice Calls on Coast Guard To Take Eminent Domain Off the Table In New London (May 16, 2002)

Article: Vigil at 41 Goshen Street; Liberty & Law (March 2001)

Release: Fort Trumbull Homeowners File Appeal to Protect Their Homes (April 1, 2002)

Article: Homes Saved; Liberty & Law (March 2001)

Release: Majority of Fort Trumbull Homeowners Win, Others To Appeal Institute for Justice Wins Another Eminent Domain Case (March 13, 2002)

Article: Real People Pay Dearly For NLDC Land Grab (February 11, 2001) 

Release: New London Homes Targeted By Eminent Domain Abuse Now Safe Through Trial (February 22, 2001)

Article: With Pittsburgh & Baltimore Victories, IJ Launches New Eminent Domain Fight; Liberty & Law (January 2001) 
Release: Demolition of Homes Avoided—For Now (February 6, 2001) Article: Eminent Domain Abuse Puts Owners, Tenants Out in The Cold (January 29, 2001) 


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