Institute for Justice and Fort Trumbull Homeowners Ask Connecticut Supreme Court to Reconsider Decision Permitting Eminent Domain Abuse

John Kramer
John Kramer · March 29, 2004

Washington, D.C.—Home and small business owners in New London, Conn., today filed papers asking the Connecticut Supreme Court to reconsider its 4-3 decision in Kelo v. New London, which allowed a city government and private development corporation to seize their property through eminent domain for the benefit of private parties.

“The majority opinion, despite its statement to the contrary, essentially nullifies the ‘public use’ clause of the Connecticut Constitution,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate against eminent domain abuse. The Institute represents the property owners for free. “If allowed to stand, this decision gives local officials a virtual blank check to condemn private property at the whim of private parties.”

In its petition for rehearing, the Institute writes, “Under this Court’s rule, only an utter failure to even try to concoct some possible chain of events would result in the rejection of a proposed condemnation for private ownership and development. … Sacrificing fundamental constitutional protections because of a perceived pressing need is both bad policy and bad law. For the sake of possible economic growth in New London in 2004, everyone in Connecticut … loses the constitutional protection that their unblighted homes and businesses will not be taken for private economic development.”

The petition continues, “As long as the local government jumps through all the procedural hoops, it can freely condemn property for private businesses that, as long as they make an ordinary profit, will probably generate more taxes than those pesky low-tax homes.”

The Institute today also asked the Court to stay its ruling to allow home and business owners to remain on their property as the case is reconsidered and appealed, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Institute’s lawsuit on behalf of New London property owners is part of its nationwide campaign to stop eminent domain abuse—the unethical and unconstitutional marriage of convenience between developers and government that seeks to take privately owned land for another’s economic benefit, not for a public use.

Over four years ago, the City and the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) decided that private developers with plans to enhance the Pfizer facility built next door could make better use of the land than the existing homeowners in Fort Trumbull. The City Council transferred its power of eminent domain to the NLDC; this private group makes all the decisions on development in Fort Trumbull, including how and when to trigger the use of eminent domain on the homeowners. The NLDC has spent the last several years razing property in Fort Trumbull. Left standing amid the rubble are the homes of a group of committed property owners, including a family who has lived in Fort Trumbull for more than 100 years and in the same house since 1905.