In a frightening and blatant abuse of government power, the Supreme Court recently ruled that local governments have the right to take anybody’s property if such theft from the individual would enhance the local economy. Such economic development, the five-to-four ruling said, is a "public use" and is an appropriate excuse for the use of eminent domain.
The ruling came in favor of New London, once an economically distressed city that found renewed hope in 2001 as pharmaceutical giant Pfizer opened a large research center on the city's riverfront. When Pfizer bigwigs expressed an interest in expanding, New London condemned the homes standing in the way. Many residents accepted the city’s offer but 15 held out. The Supreme Courts ruling trampled their rights in favor of big business.
Previously, eminent domain allowed the government to come in, pay you a fair price for your property, and build a dam, a highway, or some other project clearly beneficial to the public at large. I don’t think much of that idea but I can at least understand the thinking behind it. But now, thanks to the Supreme Court, local governments can take your land and offer it to a developer for a mall, casino, hotel, or whatever they wish. These businesses, after all, will generate much more tax revenue for the local government than the original, private owner of the land.
So instead of public benefit, eminent domain is now to the developers benefit, the business owner’s benefit, and local government's benefit.
Worried? If not, you should be. Concern about the Patriot Act’s invasion of your privacy is nothing compared to losing your land. And what is so especially infuriating is that the justices are not answerable to we the people. A judicial appointment lasts for life. We cannot vote them out. Congress has the power to remove a justice, but it has never occurred. They attempted such a removal only once — in 1805 — with Justice Samuel Chase but the Senate balked and Chase remained in office until he died.
The guilty parties in this odious abuse of power are Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. No surprise that the more liberal members of the court make up this group. Anything to expand government power!
Their action seems clearly criminal to me, and being familiar with the law, you would think they would feel that way also. What else but theft can you call the forceful taking of something of value from one person or group and giving it to another? Well, okay, you can also call it taxation but that is another problem.
Two things must happen in response to this outrage as it cannot- must not- go unanswered. First, Congress must pass a Constitutional amendment setting up strict eminent domain guidelines. This would effectively render useless the Courts insane ruling.
Secondly, remove the Justices who voted in favor of the decision from the court to protect us from future insanities. As getting them off the court can only be accomplished by one of three means — death, voluntarily retirement or by impeachment by Congress — I suggest contacting your senator and representative to demand their removal.
If you think this is extreme it is no more so than the City of Ringgold or Fort Oglethorpe condemning your subdivision for an outlet mall or your home for a fast food restaurant. Both would provide jobs and bring in more tax revenue, so according to the Supreme Court the two cities could condemn properties left and right to enhance the local economy. Nobody is safe when government goes unchecked and no government entity has less restraint upon it than the Supreme Court.
This July 4th, the fact that our Founders believed the Court to be the weakest of all the branches of the federal government would be amusing if the situation were not so serious. So, as we celebrate the birth of our nation, we ought to consider some other writings by Thomas Jefferson instead of just the Declaration of Independence. Regarding the Supreme Courts claim to the power of declaring what the law is, Jefferson warned that by “sapping and mining slyly and without alarm the foundations of the Constitution,
Writing to Abigail Adams, Jefferson put it more clearly. "The Constitution . . . meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch."
And I can’t think of anything much more despotic than eminent domain used to help not the public but developers, big business, and local governments