Washington, D.C.-Today, three families from Madison County, Mississippi filed their opening brief in a precedent-setting case before the Supreme Court of Mississippi, asking the Court to declare that the taking of their homes and land for a Nissan truck manufacturing facility violates the Mississippi Constitution.
The Court will decide for the first time the constitutionality of using eminent domain for “economic development” taking someone’s property because the government believes it will generate more taxes and jobs if transferred to another private party, usually for commercial or industrial development.
“Mississippi courts have a proud history of respecting property rights in eminent domain cases,” said Scott Bullock senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm that represents the Archie and Bouldin families in the case. “We are confident the Mississippi Supreme Court will reject this blatant land grab for private profit.”
The Supreme Court of Mississippi in the case has previously stayed the condemnation cases against the families, guaranteeing that nothing will happen to their land or homes while the Court reviews the constitutionality of the State’s actions.
“The courts are the last recourse for people whose rights have been violated by the government,” commented Steve Simpson, the Institute’s Fellow in Constitutional Litigation. “The State must be held accountable for its unconstitutional actions on behalf of a private company.”
Stephanie Parker-Weaver, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Jackson, Mississippi chapter, has been working with the property owners since the beginning of the controversy. She said, “The constitution says the government can take property only for public use. It’s hard to get any further from a public use than Nissan’s gated private factory.”
Construction of the 1400-acre Nissan plant will go forward regardless of whether the small amount of property at issue here (approximately 28 acres) is obtained by the State. The former head of the Mississippi Development Authority last year admitted in The New York Times that the land is not necessary for the Nissan project, but that his office is pursuing the taking to save face for the State. On September 10, 2001, the Times quoted James C. Burns, Jr., the former executive director of the Authority, “It’s not that Nissan is going to leave if we don’t get that land. What’s important is the message it would send to other companies if we are unable to do what we said we would do. If you make a promise to a company like Nissan, you have to be able to follow through.”