Cities can seize homes, Supreme Court rules

June 23, 2005

Eminent domain case ends in loss for property owners


Inman News

Local governments can seize individuals' homes and businesses against their will to make way for shopping malls, office buildings and other private economic development, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in a split decision.

In the widely watched case, Kelo v. City of New London, property owners challenged the government's use of eminent domain to pay for private property that would be used for private economic development.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said government agencies can take private property for economic development, and even transfer it to another private party.

The ruling was a loss for residents of New London, Conn., who petitioned against the use of eminent domain, arguing that cities have no right to take their properties unless the projects have a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to improve blighted neighborhoods, the AP reported.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the court opinion, affirming that New London's proposed disposition of petitioners' property qualifies as "public use." Stevens was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that cities should not be able to uproot families with unlimited authority to accommodate developers. She was joined by Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and the Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Copyright 2005 Inman News