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Eminent Domain

rrr

Senior Member
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#1
I thought I'd share my experience last week in this area and see if there are any collective opinions out there.

Eminent Domain - under the "Takings Clause" of the Constitution, the government is given the power to take property from citizens, given just compensation (which is often the appraiser's value, not market value), if it is for public use.

However, in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., that didn't exactly happen. You see, many neighborhoods were condemned and bulldozed in the name of "urban renewal", which as one Supreme Court Justice said was often "black removal". In the late 1990's, the City of New London wished to clear a few plots of land, actually more like 45 acres of homes and small business, to clear land for a development. Pfizer had just come out with Viagra and had built a research facility there, and this land next door was be developed for hotels and the like - private enterprises, not public interest...or is it public interest because that would be a better tax base than the residential homes? Susette Kelo and a group of neighbors fought this and held onto their land, and brought in the Institute for Justice, a non-profit public interest law firm. The head council for the Kelo case was Scott Bullock - a graduate of Grove City College. To make a long story short, Kelo made its way to the Supreme Court, where the decision was affirmed 5-4 and the land was taken for development by the City of New London. 10 years later and the tract of land is still vacant...and Pfizer has announced that it's leaving New London, just as its tax abatements are up!

Kelo remains to be the leading case on eminent domain, and is considered to be the most controversial Supreme Court decision since Roe v. Wade. Nearly 90% of public opinion is against eminent domain in cases such as the this. Though constitutionally legal for public use, like an interstate, the argument for a higher tax base being "public use" still receives a great deal of controversy. In her dissent, O'Connor said (and I paraphrase) that with this type of eminent domain, every motel can be destroyed for a Marriott, and every farm for a factory.

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As a prominent pre-law student within the College and as a Koch Student Fellow for the Center of Vision and Values (our think-tank), I was able to attend Scott Bullock's luncheon lecture on Kelo last week in Pittsburgh, had a private meeting with him, went to a donor dinner, a student event in the evening, and breakfast the following morning. In other words, I spent an entire day with the lawyer that argued a HUGE Supreme Court case - and when he was in front of the bench, it was just 17 years after his graduation from the program that I am in now. Crazy.

Thought that I would share and see what opinions / experiences there are with eminent domain. It's something that most people hate, and also something that I feel most people are not familiar with.

Capt
 

Milo

Tatonka guide.
7,809
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#2
it is the most abused power of our government. I understand its concept and appreciate what it creates but it serve to undermine the very existence of our constitution in my opinion. It once again proves that what is yours is not really yours.
 

Jackalope

Dignitary Member
Staff member
32,265
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#3
What are you talking about milo. Its all yours. Your name is on the deed. Well.... Yours as long as you continue to pay off the government not to take it. And yours as long as the government doesn't have a better use for it. Besides that its yours to do as you wish provided the government has zoned it for that wish, and you paid them off for a permit to allow you to make that wish come true. Oh and as long as that wish doesn't violate any government ordnances, codes, or laws.
 

Ohiosam

*Supporting Member*
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#4
I understand the need for government to have the use of eminent domain in certain situations like when a road needs to go from point "A" to point "B" or even when a private utility needs to run a power line or gas line. However I see no justification for many "takings". A local one was about 10 years ago a Federal Prison was built in Columbiana county. Placing it in Columbiana county was done for political reasons that I won't go into. By placing it where they did they needed to take land through eminent domain because the owners were not interested in selling. This was a hilly piece of land that required extensive excavating to prepare, required the building of water and sewage treatment plants and up grading roads. Surely a place could have been found that was for sale and didn't require all the costly upgrades.
 

jagermeister

Dignitary Member
Supporting Member
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#7
I just dealt with a situation of eminent domain a couple weeks ago. Some sweet old lady, about 80-something years old, fought against it for 10 years but finally lost her battle... the village installed about 400 feet of 36 inch drainage culver right through her yard, all because some local slum lord put up a new building north of her lot and was having drainage problems. Needless to say, the end result was a fucked up yard that will never be as nice as it was before. The reason I got involved... the jackasses that put in the culvert cut through the discharge line for the sewage treatment system and left it in a way that would only cause her more problems.

IMO, eminent domain is bullshit. I don't care who it benefits... the end result is innocent people getting screwed and that's just not right.
 

hickslawns

Dignitary Member
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#8
JBrown- That sounds like a ditch project more than eminent domain. Ditch projects suck too though. We had to pay for one that essentially benefited nobody. Even the county engineer stated (off the record) the drainage issues in our watershed were not even a blip on the radar compared to some of the other drainage issues in the county. So they have their meetings with their minds already made up, and every single land owner except two spoke against it. Guess who pays for it? Every single land owner in the watershed. I am sure Ohiosam has dealt with some of these in his line of work.
 

Thunderflight

Dignitary Member
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Shermans Dale, PA
#10
I think eminent domain is a good thing. Sure some people get screwed and those seem to be the only examples people remember. What about the guy who has the run down trailer park who refuses to sell his POS home and F'd up land so those of us who embrace progress. It's not like the guy is getting totally screwed. At least he/she is getting paid for the land. In most cases the appraised value is about all it's really worth anyway. Hey somebody has to be pro-eminent domain..... 8*)
 

hickslawns

Dignitary Member
Supporting Member
34,509
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#11
Good point TF. I am sure there are just as many or more cases where the people get 10-20% above market value for their properties as well. You just never hear about it from those people. They are busy counting their money.
 

RRJJ

Removed by Request.
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#12
Should the government forcibly take from the rich and give to the poor for the overall good of the people? I'm guessing that most, or even all, here would resoundingly say "NO!" So what makes it ok for the government to exercise eminent domain?

Cap't, have you read or heard of what is going on in China with their eminent domain practice? It's interesting that the people of communist China are actually fighting back with improvised weapons. Good for them!

Also, a quick story. A few years ago the county came down my in-law's road and were offering to buy 20' of road frontage width to put in a culvert. My in-laws gladly accepted the check that was worth a few grand. Several of their neighbors refused the offer which brought an end to the culvert. As far as I know county dropped the plans and never pursued any type of eminent domain action. So my in-laws made off with a few grand of free money!
 

RRJJ

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#14
Nice, so how much of you tax money went to other people who got that couple grand? I mean it was good for your in laws, but how many other times has that happened?

I don't care if it was good for the in-laws, or if it would possible benefit me, I'm against government taking stuff and for individual and property rights. If it's happened once, you could assume that it has happened many times. Yet another example of government waste.
 

rrr

Senior Member
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#15
Cap't, have you read or heard of what is going on in China with their eminent domain practice? It's interesting that the people of communist China are actually fighting back with improvised weapons. Good for them!
Read an article about that yesterday in the newspaper. Not familiar with all of it, but, as you as, interesting. Not too crazy that they are fighting back (I'm currently sitting in History of Modern Asia and have a test on the Boxer Rebellion tomorrow, those crazy Chinese fought all the time!) Also a totally different situation in that they are indeed communist and we're not (suppose to be). Goes to my next class, Comparative Politics, where we just looked over some of the index of freedom stuff- the ability to own property as a public citizen is HUGE! (that might be another thread)

Wud a prominent law student ?
I look good in a suit. Also known as "bullshitter in training"
 

rrr

Senior Member
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#16
Cap't, have you read or heard of what is going on in China with their eminent domain practice? It's interesting that the people of communist China are actually fighting back with improvised weapons. Good for them!
Read an article about that yesterday in the newspaper. Not familiar with all of it, but, as you as, interesting. Not too crazy that they are fighting back (I'm currently sitting in History of Modern Asia and have a test on the Boxer Rebellion tomorrow, those crazy Chinese fought all the time!) Also a totally different situation in that they are indeed communist and we're not (suppose to be). Goes to my next class, Comparative Politics, where we just looked over some of the index of freedom stuff- the ability to own property as a public citizen is HUGE! (that might be another thread)

Wud a prominent law student ?
I look good in a suit. Also known as "bullshitter in training"