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June 24, 2005

SCOTUS destroys concept of private property

From the Washington Times:

The Supreme Court yesterday said cities can seize people's homes or businesses to make way for private commercial development such as shopping malls, a far-reaching ruling decried by property rights advocates.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices for the first time said governments can take private property and give it to developers citing eminent domain, a practice historically used for public highway projects. ...

Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer formed a majority, which said New London, Conn., could force a group of homeowners to sell to the city so a riverfront hotel, private offices and a health club could be built.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government," wrote Justice Stevens for the majority.

Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist dissented, slamming the majority for abandoning a "long-held, basic limitation on government power" to make such seizures ensured by the Bill of Rights.

Justice O'Connor said "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 ... given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public."

Note that those voting against property rights were the Liberals, those voting for property right (dissenting opinions) were the Conservatives and moderates.

In related news....

A Quincy woman who apparently stuffed $46,950 in cash in her bra before trying to board a plane to Texas for plastic surgery has sued a federal agency, demanding the return of her money.

The money was seized from Ileana Valdez, 26, after a security check at a metal detector at Logan International Airport on Feb. 3. Valdez told authorities she was heading to Texas for plastic surgery on her buttocks and breasts...

Valdez, a single mother said in her suit that she has no criminal record and earned the money by selling her Dorchester business and two parcels of property in Boston's Jamaica Plain section.

Anthony Pettigrew, a spokesman for the DEA in Boston, said he could not comment on the lawsuit. But he said federal asset forfeiture laws allow agents to seize suspected drug profits.

It's been law for some time now that the government can take your money or property if it thinks it's been used in relation to selling or manufacturing drugs, without having to prove anything, and you then have the burden of proof to show that it was legal. Usually they take enough to make it worth their while, but make it too expensive for the victim to hire lawyers to try to get it back.

The second story shows the groundwork laid for the first. Pretty scary, huh.

Fortunately there is a short term remedy (I say short term because once government gets the taste for taking money from people, it generally finds ways to do more and more of it) Citizens of Georgia are protected from the recent SCOTUS decision by their state's Constitution. Citizens of Texas may soon have protection as a proposed amendment to their Constitution has already been introduced, that would prevent the kind of state seizures that the SCOTUS has now allowed. Hurray for states' rights!

Coverage: Michelle Malkin (also here), Captain's Quarters, Volokh, Outside the Beltway, WizBang (also here), Professor Bainbridge, Indepundit, Jawa Report, Don Singleton, PoliBlog, Pajama Hadin, ChristWeb, BatesLine (also here), Stones Cry Out, The Smarter Cop, The Seventh Age, The Original Musings, The Narrow, Florida Cracker, Iowa Voice, In a Mays, Of the Mind

Posted by Danny Carlton at June 24, 2005 09:24 AM

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» Invitation To Corruption from Mark in Mexico
I live in Mexico. Here, the right of Eminent Domain, for the public good, of course, follow closely the ideal as envisioned by the Supreme Court and the New York Times. [Read More]

Tracked on June 24, 2005 10:49 AM

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