Take My House, Please
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 today to allow governments to take your house and then transfer it to a corporation or like entity for development. The vote was on party lines, with the liberal side of the court (Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer) along with swing Justice Kennedy voting in favor of allowing states to take private property for any "public use" reason. Previously, the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution meant that private property could be seized for public use projects such as roads, schools and sewage plants. Under this ruling, "public use" now includes projects such as shopping malls, office buildings and yes, even casinos.
Dissenting were conservative justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as well as Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Here is an excerpt from Justice O'Connor's dissenting opinion, which speaks for itself:
Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. 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 -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process.This decision is just terrible, and the implications are clear. Your property is now subject to seizure by the government for any reason that can be construed as being "beneficial to the public". In the case at hand, increased taxes and revenue were deemed adequate reasons for the confiscating the homes of Connecticut residents to make way for a development of a shopping mall, office building and residental complex.
The effect of the decision is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property -- and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
I have an idea: why don't we find out where Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer live, and then build a Jack-in-the-Box on the property?