Thursday, June 23, 2005

An Eminently Troubling Court Decision

If you haven't heard, your home is no longer your castle. Today, in an unconscionable decision (5-4), the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that cities and towns can take homes for private development projects by use of eminent domain. I'm going to have to pinch myself and ask if I'm still in America!

Eminent domain was supposed to allow governments to take (with compensation) property for public use such as roads, schools, libraries. Now the door is open for seizure of homes for private developers. The case heard before the Supreme Court was brought by a group of homeowners in New London, CT, who are fighting to keep their homes from being taken for a private development project to complement a facility owned by Pfizer, Inc..

I literally felt shock and outrage when I first read about this. I feel it is probably the worst Supreme Court decision since Plessy v. Ferguson or Dred Scott. I bless the 4 dissenters: Chief Justice Renhquist and Justices O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas (wow - he actually got one right!) Justice O'Connor wrote in her dissent: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." She is absolutely correct. Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent that it will have a great impact on poor communities undergoing renewal programs. He wrote that "no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes."

Ladies and gentlemen, where is the outrage? Do not wait until it is your home that your town wants to seize. I urge you to take action. Contact your Senators and Congresspeople and urge a legislative remedy. Contact your state representatives and also lobby for a remedy on the state level.

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