We Happy Few
By Matt Dery
I am sitting here writing this on October 25, 2004, looking forward with renewed hope to our approaching date with the U.S. Supreme Court early in 2005. It does not require much effort to recall the feelings of helplessness that filled my family and me as we were on the brink of losing our property to the abuse of eminent domain by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) in 2000. How could we hang onto the homes that had been in our family for over a century? How was it that my great-grandmother and grandmother, neither of whom had more than a sixth-grade education, could manage to retain ownership through the Great Depression and World War II, and we now, with much more education, could not? Where would we live? What would we do about my aging parents whose home is also targeted? These were life-altering questions for which I had no satisfactory answers.
Even David had only one Goliath to face. We were up against the State of Connecticut, Pfizer, the NLDC, and the City of New London; the prospects were bleak.
Enter the Institute for Justice.
I recall that George Will once called the Institute for Justice a “merry band of libertarian litigators.” While that is a patently true characterization, I refer to them as “the best legal team that money can’t buy.” In a time when some lawyers will flip-flop from defending one side of an issue to the other as if they have experienced a financial epiphany, it is gratifying to know that IJ will always be following their principles and protecting the rights of common citizens against abuses of government power. Their ethic is not for sale to the highest bidder. Their moral compass is attuned to true north. IJ’s expertise is evident, even to the uninitiated like me, from their appearance in Superior Court in New London, to the top-notch legal briefs filed at both the Connecticut and the U.S. Supreme Courts, to garnering support in the court of public opinion—and all done free of charge.
What a strange trip it’s been. From the depths of despair to the U.S. Supreme Court, culminating with the potential to change the way the despotic power of eminent domain is wielded, not just in Connecticut, but nationwide. Wow!
It is apropos that today is St. Crispin’s Day. We are engaged in a struggle not unlike King Henry V at Agincourt, France, in 1415. He was outmanned. It was against long odds that we held out hope that our case would be considered by the highest court in the land. Henry V inspired his men to heights that they never dreamed possible. IJ has taken us to within sight of regaining our autonomy. I don’t think Shakespeare would mind if I borrowed his words:
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; It yearns me not if men my garments wear; Such outward things dwell not in my desires. But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.
Over the past four years, our relationship with IJ has grown to exemplify fraternity. If together “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” are successful in the fight to reinstate the intended protections afforded property owners by the framers of the Constitution of the United States, it truly will be a victory of Shakespearean proportions.
Happy St. Crispin’s Day, brothers.
Matt Dery is a homeowner from New London, Conn., and an Institute for Justice client.