The End of an Eminent Domain Error: Pfizer R&D Headquarters Closes in New London, Conn.

John Kramer
John Kramer · November 10, 2009

Arlington, Va.—Pfizer, Inc., announced today that the company will be
closing its former research and development headquarters in New London,
Conn.  This was a project that involved massive corporate welfare and
led to the abuse of eminent domain that ultimately bulldozed the home of
Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case
Kelo v. City of New London.

This was the same bogus development plan that five justices of the U.S.
Supreme Court refused to question when the property owners of New London
pleaded to have their homes spared from the wrecking ball.  Justices
mentioned that there was a plan in place, and that so long as lawmakers
who are looking to use eminent domain for someone’s private gain had a
plan, the courts would wash their hands.  Now, more than four years
after the redevelopment scheme passed constitutional muster-allowing
government to take land from one private owner only to hand that land
over to another private party who happens to have more political
influence-the plant that had been the magnet for the development is
closing its doors and the very land where Susette Kelo’s home once stood
remains barren to all but feral cats, seagulls and weeds.

Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case for the Institute for Justice on
behalf of the New London homeowners, said, “Today’s announcement that
Pfizer is closing its research facility in New London demonstrates the
folly of government plans that involve massive corporate welfare and
that abuse eminent domain for private development.  The majority opinion
in Kelo v. New London described the Fort Trumbull project as a
‘carefully considered’ plan, but it has been an unmitigated disaster
from start-and now-to finish.”

Bullock continued, “Project supporters blame the economic downturn for
this turn of events.  That is all the more reason why taxpayer dollars
should not be put at risk in speculative and risky development schemes.”

Despite the Court’s Kelo ruling, much change for the good has occurred.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice and
co-counsel in the Kelo case, said, “In the face of the U.S. Supreme
Court’s Kelo ruling, 43 states have now reformed their laws to better
protect property owners.  What’s more, seven state high courts have
stepped in post-Kelo to protect the rights of homeowners against eminent
domain abuse.  The high courts of Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
Missouri, New Jersey and Rhode Island have all ruled in favor of
property owners and against eminent domain for private gain.  None has
made Kelo the rule under their own state constitutions.”

The tragic saga of the Kelo case is detailed in Jeff Benedict’s book
Little Pink House:  A True Story of Defiance and Courage (Grand Central
Publishing; 2009).  In it, Benedict shares with readers how Kelo took on
the City of New London, a cast of politically powerful villains and,
ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case that sparked a
revolutionary change nationwide in eminent domain laws-except in