Fort Trumbull Homeowners File Appeal to Protect Their Homes

John Kramer
John Kramer · April 1, 2002

Washington, D.C.—On behalf of three property owners in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn., the Institute for Justice today appealed to the Connecticut Appellate Court in Hartford, challenging a lower court ruling that permitted the taking of their property by the New London Development Corporation through the power of eminent domain.

In March, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Corradino dismissed 11 out of 15 eminent domain actions, handing a victory to four property owners in Fort Trumbull.

“We’re extremely pleased that Judge Corradino vindicated the rights of most of our clients, but we will not rest until all of the property owners are safe and secure in their homes,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice. “We look forward to demonstrating to the appeals court that eminent domain cannot be used to force the transfer of homes from their rightful owners to another private interest in the name of economic development.”

The property owners appealing—The Cristofaro Family, Richard Beyer and Byron Athenian—are on property known as Parcel 3. By order of the trial court, they will retain possession of their homes while their case is on appeal.

The New London Development Corporation (NLDC) moved to condemn the homes and businesses of IJ clients The Dery Family, The Cristofaro Family, Susette Kelo, Richard Beyer, Byron Athenian, James and Laura Guretsky and Bill Von Winkle in the fall of 2000. On December 20, 2000, the property owners, with the help of IJ, began to fight back with a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NLDC’s abuse of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the government’s power to take private property for a public use.

Increasingly, governments across the nation take private property not for a public use but for private businesses in the name of “economic development.” The NLDC’s effort to take property in Fort Trumbull is a premier example of this kind of abuse of power. The City of New London delegated its eminent domain authority to the NLDC, a private—and, therefore, unaccountable—development corporation in 2000.

The Institute for Justice works to restore substance to the constitutional requirement that property can only be taken by the government for public use, not for the benefit of private parties. In 1998, the Institute successfully defended Vera Coking, an elderly widow from Atlantic City, against the attempts by a New Jersey state agency to condemn her house of more than 35 years for Donald Trump’s casino across the street. The Institute also successfully spearheaded a campaign against eminent domain abuse in downtown Pittsburgh, where the mayor proposed taking more than 60 buildings and 120 privately owned businesses to give the property to a developer to build an urban shopping mall. In November 2000, the mayor abandoned his plans and pledged not to use eminent domain in future efforts to develop the area. In October 2000, the Institute also filed a lawsuit in federal district court in New York challenging New York’s unconstitutional eminent domain procedures and asking for an injunction to prevent the condemnations of business properties.

Lisa Knepper
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