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

Virginia food truck owners file federal lawsuit after raging town councilmember damaged truck, town council repeatedly harassed them

Theslet Benoir and Clemene Bastien are a married couple that immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 2005. They received asylum, settled in Parksley, Virginia, and opened a brick-and-mortar store that caters to the needs of the Eastern Shore’s Haitian population. But the town repeatedly harassed them, so they teamed up with IJ to file a federal lawsuit.

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Private Property Legislation

Criminal Forfeiture Process Act

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Criminal Forfeiture Process Act

Civil forfeiture is a serious assault by government on cars, cash and other property. To lose your property in most states, prosecutors do not have to charge you, let alone convict you of a crime.

Anti-Circumvention Forfeiture Act

Civil Forfeiture | Private Property

Anti-Circumvention Forfeiture Act

Under civil forfeiture, the state can permanently confiscate your cash, car, and other property, without a prosecutor convicting, or even charging you with a crime. Although some states have acted to protect innocent property owners,…

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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.

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