Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Supremes Punt On Eminent Domain Abuse

It looks like the Supreme Court wants to hold on to "stare decisis" no matter how egregious their previous error. In this case (no pun intended) I am talking about the court's refusal yesterday to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling upholding a municipality taking private land and giving it to other private developers for economic gain. Legal stealing is what I call it. This is the fruit of the so-called "Kelo" decision pushing the government's eminent domain authority to an historic, riduculous and unjust level. This is Chuck Missler's take on the news:


On Tuesday the Supreme Court refused to consider a much-anticipated case that observers hoped would clarify the court's opinion on issues of eminent domain. In the case of Didden v. Port Chester, city officials in Port Chester, New York seized private property and turned it over to a developer. Due to the circumstances of the case, some consider it to be one of the worst examples of eminent domain abuse in recent years. In June of 2005 the Supreme Court shocked and frightened land owners across America by ruling that private property can be seized by the government and sold to private developers in order to generate tax revenue and spur economic growth. That case, Kelo v. City of New London, opened the floodgates for local governments to use eminent domain for private gain.

In Kelo v. City of New London the Supreme Court changed its interpretation of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation. Historically, the government’s right of eminent domain has been invoked when land is needed for a distinct public purpose – such as a highway, school, hospital or military base. The words "for public use" and "without just compensation" in the Fifth Amendment were meant to provide safeguards against excessive, unpredictable, or unfair use of the government's eminent domain power. As a result of the court’s decision in the case of Kelo v.City of New London, however, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue. The Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Facing high unemployment and general deterioration, the city of New London, Connecticut sought to find ways to improve its economy. In 2000, the city approved a development plan that would put in office buildings, a waterfront hotel, and a health club down by the water. When they approved the plan, however, the city gave the developers power to condemn houses whose owners remained unwilling to sell. The city argued that it would be for public good to develop the city and encourage tourism and create jobs, and for that reason, those homes could be seized - and the Supreme Court agreed.

In her dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor criticized the court's decision to expand eminent domain to include such development. She wrote that, "under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded." That, she notes, could include just about anything.

It is important to note that the Bible clearly establishes the importance of private property. In fact, God instituted the concept of private property in the Ten Commandments. Are we not told “Thou shalt not steal?” Also, in several of Jesus’ parables he indicated his respect for personal property and private gain. Likewise, there is nothing in the epistles that contradicts the right of private ownership and profit.

A free society depends on voluntary compliance with law. Christians comply because they believe in a God who watches our every move and holds us accountable, even when government does not. Those without belief in God and absolute truth have no motivation whatsoever to comply voluntarily and so an ever-increasing corpus of law must be imposed by the government to achieve order. In doing so, the government separates itself from morality and oftentimes can become the chief lawbreaker. The Supreme Court giving local governments the green light to confiscate private property in the name of redevelopment is evidence of this trend.

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The only way this will ever be reversed is if enough people get mad and begin exacting a personal price from politicians and judges who engage in this type of chicanery. Throw the bums out, to put it mildly. The economic well being of the greedy developers ought to be targeted as well. If we lose the right to private property and being able to protect it from unlawful seizure, we are on the way to becoming another Soviet Union.

I use the term unlawful seizure purposefully. Just because the Supreme Court says something is constitutional doesn't mean that it really is. They have proven their ability to twist and distort the historic meaning of the document. A postmodern court if you will. A return to strict constructionism is a must and that can only be accomplished by gaining control of both the legislative and executive branches. The legislative must be willing to impeach and remove judges who abuse their power, and reverse fat-headed rulings of the court by legislation. Under the constitution, the Congress has the power to restrict the courts' jurisdiction. None of this will be easy, because our society will need to be rebuilt from the ground up. A whole new generation needs to be re-educated. The left has had a stranglehold on education, the media, and a host of other cultural influencers. The leftist idea of government is that government is God, and people ought to be like good sheep or "proles," as Orwell put it. You won't be successful at the governmental level until you are successful in turning the local level around and begin putting traditionalists in power in ALL branches of government.

We'd better start soon, or we might well discover that America has become the People's Republic of Westernia.


Anonymous said...

This just goes to show that when God is removed from our government, our conscience is removed as well.

A return to our country's roots is needed in a big way and it is up to the grassroots to bring this change about. Christian voices are being heard through our votes even if we are not acknowledged anywhere else.

Palm boy said...

The Kelo desicion was the worst descion in this courts varried history.
Far more damaging then either Roe vs. Wade, or the Dredd scott case.
Why? Because with out the right to property, then everything else can be easily stripped.