Friday, June 24, 2005

Eminent Domain Furor

The papers this morning are filled with stories and editorials on the Supreme Court’s decision in the New London eminent domain case. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times editorializes in favor of the 5-4 decision in a piece ominously titled “The Limits of Private Property.” Rebutting Justice O’Conner’s blistering dissent that the Court had paved the way (quite literally) to allow for the transfer of “any private property from the owner to another person so long as it might be upgraded,” the Times opined that “her fears are exaggerated.”

According to the Gray Lady:

The majority strongly suggested that eminent domain should be part of a comprehensive plan, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing separately, underscored that its goal cannot simply be to help a developer or other private party become richer.
Is the Times really serious? The use of eminent domain is almost always part of some comprehensive plan that often beautifully masks the underlying, blatant property transfers (One of the best examples being the Times’s own new headquarters on 8th Avenue). In addition, these larger urban renewal schemes that do transfer property also are usually larded up with tax payer subsidies that make the taking more suspect.

For a radically different take on all of this see George Will’s column in today’s NY Post and the New York Sun’s editorial as well. In fact, the Sun’s point that the conservative justices were standing up for the little guys and the liberals for the rich and well-connected is particularly well-taken. As Justice Thomas wrote:

[The] losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful.
What’s left is the point we made in our earlier post. People who feel strongly about the expansive use of eminent domain need to look to the legislature for relief. As Anne Michaud writes in today’s Crain's Insider, Norman Siegel has already urged that Albany, “take up the challenge of limiting eminent domain.” As important, however, is the needed to place this limitation in the context of a more comprehensive approach that promotes accountable development.

Also, Instapundit has a nice roundup of the reactions to the Court's decision.