Gray Flannel Dwarf

6/23/2005

Initial thoughts: Eminent Domain ruling

I am not sure what I think about the recent Supreme Court decision.

On its face, I don’t like it at all. That personal property can be taken up and all but redistributed — regardless of “compensation” — to corporate or residential redevelopment efforts is darn near asinine.

At the same time I do wonder if SCOTUS made the right decision, legally speaking: it’s not too different from a states-rights issue. I’m not so sure that different states — or counties, cities, towns — shouldn’t have the ability to govern themselves in determining what is and isn’t ethical with regards to eminent domain. If a community doesn’t like their region’s laws, they should fight to change them, or shouldn’t allow such draconian statues pass in the first place. I guess residents could always move, too, if they don’t like these laws, but that’s sort of defeating the purpose.

To summarise: I think it’s wrong for local governments to seize land from existing owners for commercial purposes. Dead wrong. But from a legal perspective, I hesitantly feel the SCOTUS made the right decision, avoiding a situation where it would otherwise be treading that fine line of creating legislation through judicial precendent — much less Federal legislation on what some might consider a municipal issue.

Another thought that comes to mind: there’s the obvious angle that will be taken by many concerning the fear that such a ruling can and will encourage the redistribution of property to already-wealthy institutions — those, as O’Connor stated, “with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.” However, I see a larger concern — what keeps local governments from abusing this new privilege? State legislators gerrymander to shape political districts, what’s to keep local governments from seizing the land of political opponents, under the guise of creating “appreciable benefits to the community”, per the SCOTUS majority opinion?

This one is a tough cookie to swallow, either way.


cswiii @ 11:45 pm

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