Senior Vice President and Litigation Director
Eminent domain is the power of government to force people from their family homes, to destroy their businesses. It is a despotic power, and Americaís Founders placed limits on the condemnation power in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Governments may condemn only for ìpublic use,î as well as paying just compensation. All 50 state constitutions also limit condemnations to those for public use. Yet government increasingly uses the eminent domain power to condemn property for private uses. Acting more like real estate agents than public servants, government agencies form unholy alliances with developers in order to force the rightful owners off of their property.
In this report, we bring together the 10 most egregious uses of eminent domain for private purposes from 1998 to 2001. These 10 are just the tip of an iceberg. We selected them from more than 100 that have come to our attention, yet there are many others we do not even know about. Indeed, in 1998, the head of the Council for Urban Economic Development estimated that cities undertake roughly 80 projects per year for private businesses that involve condemnations,1 and each project could involve more than one condemnation. Many owners cave in to pressure and settle. Others resist condemnation in court, but the legal decisions are unpublished. Still others receive minimal news coverage or coverage only from local papers that do not survive in electronic form. For example, we could find few details on a mobile home park for fixed-income senior citizens that was condemned for a private mall project that fell through in Garden Grove, California.2 We are thus regretfully certain that there are many other condemnations from this time period that are as offensive and improper as the ones listed in this report.
These ten low points of eminent domain abuse include:
Washington, D.C.—A coalition of the nation’s leading legal advocates against the abuse of eminent domain and individual property owners whose rights are being violated released a report today that spotlights the 10 most egregious instances of government condemnations for private benefit. “Government Theft: The Top 10 Abuses of Eminent Domain, 1998-2002,” demonstrates both the human…