The Institute for Justice is dedicated to protecting the right of every American to own and use his or her property freely. Respecting the right of private property is essential to a just and prosperous society. But government at all levels—local, state and federal—routinely infringe on these rights.

  • IJ has filed over 50 cases to defend private property rights, including the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. New London.
  • Thanks to our litigation and activism efforts, we have saved more than 16,000 properties from the abuse of eminent domain.
  • We published Policing for Profit, a 50-state study of civil forfeiture laws, releasing the second edition in late 2015. Through our cutting-edge litigation, communications and strategic research, we have transformed civil forfeiture into a national issue.
  • Since January 2016, we have filed 23 new property rights lawsuits, including a class action against New York City’s “no-fault” evictions and challenges to civil forfeiture in California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, New Mexico and Connecticut. In addition, we launched new cases against government land grabs in Connecticut and Georgia, challenged Dallas’ oppressive use of “amortization” against a popular auto mechanic, filed a lawsuit against rental inspections in Minnesota and sued a major Ohio city to allow a charity continue to shelter homeless people.

Today, two of the greatest threats to private property rights are the abuse of eminent domain and civil forfeiture laws. Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property for a “public use,” like bridges or roads. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, local governments increasingly used eminent domain for private development. In Kelo v. New London, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could condemn homes and businesses, not for a genuine public use but to hand them over to private developers. We are committed to defending property owners who face eminent domain for private gain.

Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize and keep private property, even if the owner has never been charged with a crime. We are leading the charge to restore due process and respect for property rights. No one should lose his or her property without being convicted of a crime.

Private Property Cases

Police seized an innocent woman’s $8,040, and now she is fighting to have her day in court

Cristal Starling runs a mobile food cart in Rochester, New York, to provide for herself and her grandnephew. She dreamed of expanding the business into a food truck, and she saved enough money to do just that. But in the fall of 2020, the local police raided her apartment and seized $8,040—the money she was going to use to pursue her dream. She was never charged with or suspected of a crime.

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Private Property Research

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Frustrating, Corrupt, Unfair

Victims of civil forfeiture call it frustrating, corrupt and unfair. This first-of-its-kind survey describes the experiences of victims of one civil forfeiture program, Philadelphia’s.

Other Property Rights Abuses | Private Property

A Case Study of Municipal Taxation by Citation

This study examines taxation by citation—local governments using code enforcement and the justice system to raise revenue rather than solely to advance public health and safety. It does so through a detailed case study of…

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