The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that will help define property rights nationwide. The City of New London, Connecticut is using the power of eminent domain to condemn private homes and small businesses to allow a commercial development. The city argues that greater tax revenue from the development is a public purpose worthy of taking the homes of people who, in some cases, have lived their all their lives.
Eminent domain is supposed to be limited to a legitimate “public use” such as for a road, prison or court. Commercial developments shouldn’t qualify.
The homeowners took the city to court to protect their property. They are being defended by the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm. Many organizations, including Cascade Policy Institute, have filed friend of the court briefs in defense of the homeowners.
Closer to home, the city of Keizer, Oregon is threatening to condemn property owned by the Lowery family so that a private developer can build a shopping center. The family is being defended by Oregonians in Action.
The Supreme Court should decide the New London case by this June. If it rules in favor of the homeowners, that precedent should help protect families like the Lowerys as they try to keep their property safe from the voracious appetite of government.
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