Kelo Decision: Still the Worst Decision. Ever. The Reason for it is Moving Out.

November 11, 2009


The “takings” clause of the 5th Amendment to the US Constitution reads, “Private property shall NOT be taken for a public use without just compensation.”
The “public use” became “private” under Kelo in an expansion of the government’s ability to use eminent domain. Read below from the WSJ on the comments at the time from the Justices and reflect on how transitory and silly they seem now that Pfizer is moving out of New London, Connecticut. Fortunately for us in Oregon we’ve passed an anti Kelo measure (which the planning class continues to try to get around).


In 1997 Susette Kelo was a 40-year-old nurse going through a divorce when she scraped up enough money to buy her own home, an old cottage on the edge of an industrial neighborhood which overlooked New London, Connecticut’s seacoast. Weeks later Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, announced plans to build its new global research and development headquarters right next door. To pave the way, the State of Connecticut put up $100 million to improve the area around Pfizer’s new facility. Through eminent domain, the City of New London was taking their homes. Desperate to save her house, she rallied her neighbors and waged an eight-year fight against a popular governor, a powerful corporation, and relentless city officials. Her struggle made national headlines and went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where it brought about the Court’s most controversial decision since Roe v. Wade.


The Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London stands as one of the worst in recent years, handing local governments carte blanche to seize private property in the name of economic development. Now, four years after that decision gave Susette Kelo’s land to private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.’s nearby corporate facility, the pharmaceutical giant has announced it will close its research and development headquarters in New London, Connecticut.

 The very reason Supreme Court Justices gave for taking Kelo’s property and giving it to another private entity is now gone. From the Wall Street Journal,  “…the five Supreme Court Justices cited the development plan as a major factor in rationalizing their Kelo decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy called the plan “comprehensive,” while Justice John Paul Stevens insisted that “The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue.”
The 5 justices who supported taking Kelo’s property, Souter, Kennedy, Stevens, Ginsberg and Breyer.
The justices on the right side of this decision were, O’Connor, Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia.

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