Author of Kelo Says He Would “Oppose” Eminent Domain Abuse as a Legislator

John Kramer
John Kramer · August 25, 2005

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion in Kelo v. City of New London upholding eminent domain for private development, said during a speech last week that the result in the case is one “I would have opposed if I were a legislator,” the New York Times reported today.

In a speech to the Clark County Bar Association in Las Vegas, Stevens noted that the result of his majority opinion in Kelo is “entirely divorced from my judgment as concerning the wisdom of the program” to take homes for private development. “My own view is that the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials,” he said.

While Stevens reiterated his belief that eminent domain for economic development is constitutional under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he noted that as a matter of policy, the result in Kelo is “unwise.”

“Legislators should take up Justice Stevens on his invitation and advice to end eminent domain abuse,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents the New London homeowners. “In his majority opinion, Justice Stevens invited states to set stricter standards for the use of eminent domain and now he points out that eminent domain abuse is indeed ‘unwise.’ When even the author of the Kelo opinion believes that eminent domain abuse is bad policy, it is clearly time for legislators to act to protect home and small business owners from condemnation for private development.”

“Eminent domain abuse is unconstitutional, bad policy and just plain wrong,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner. “Justice Stevens still has the law wrong: ‘public use’ never has and never should include taking homes and businesses for ordinary private development that may or may not produce more jobs and tax revenue. But in acknowledging that eminent domain is a poor means of achieving economic development, he has issued an important call for real reform.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Institute for Justice and its Castle Coalition grassroots arm launched a $3 million Hands Off My Home campaign. The campaign supports eminent domain reform at the state and local level and equips ordinary Americans with the means to protect their homes, small businesses and churches from eminent domain for private profit. Learn more at