Want Good Eminent Domain Reform? IJ Offers Legislators Guidelines & Warnings

Matt Powers
Matt Powers · September 19, 2005

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London opened up the floodgates to the potential abuse of eminent domain for private gain. But across the nation, lawmakers are hearing from their constituents, who demand enhanced state legal protection now that no federal protection exists. Aligned against homeowners and small businesses are the beneficiaries of the virtually unrestricted use of eminent domain—local governments, developers and planners—who are lobbying to prevent any attempt to diminish their power.

Today, the Institute for Justice issued a white paper that explains to legislators and the public why eminent domain reform is urgently needed in the wake of Kelo, and how to achieve meaningful reform that will still allow for the appropriate use of government’s eminent domain power.

“The main message of apologists for eminent domain abuse is that nothing has changed and there’s nothing to worry about, because local officials always have the best interests of their citizenry at heart,” said Dana Berliner, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice and the author of the paper. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The Kelo v. City of New London decision represents a severe threat to the security of all home and business owners in the country. Not only does it allow a whole category of condemnations that were previously in legal doubt, but it actually encourages the replacement of lower-income residents and businesses with richer homeowners and fancier businesses. The vast majority of Americans understand what is at stake, even if many so-called experts do not.”

In its seven-page paper, “Kelo v. City of New London: What it Means and the Need for Real Eminent Domain Reform,” the Institute for Justice explained in clear terms what happened with the Kelo decision and warned legislators about the misinformation opponents of eminent domain reform try to promote. The report explains the following:

• The Kelo Decision Changed the Law and Threatens All Home and Business Owners
• Eminent Domain Is Not Necessary for Economic Development
• Eminent Domain Is Not Used as a “Last Resort”
• Changes to Planning and Hearing Procedures Will Not Stem the Tide of Eminent Domain Abuse
• The Floodgates Are Opening and the Situation Will Only Get Worse If No Legislative Action Is Taken
• How to Create an Effective Statutory Protection Against Eminent Domain Abuse, which includes:
o Basic elements of a good law
o Additional useful provisions to make the law more just for property owners
o Common pitfalls in proposed reform legislation

Legislators and journalists may obtain the report at: http://www.castlecoalition.org/kelo-whitepaper/.

[NOTE: To arrange interviews on this subject, journalists may call John Kramer, the Institute for Justice’s vice president for communications, at (202) 955-1300 or in the evening/weekend at (703) 527-8730. For an on-line media kit on this issue, visit www.ij.org or www.castlecoalition.org.]

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