According to the Fifth Amendment, U.S. citizens are guaranteed property rights, among other things. It reads, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation". ALL of the fifty state constitutions agree with the framers of the U.S. Constitution's Framers that takings must be for "public use." We have always believed that the Constitution intended "public" to mean that private property could only be taken to create public things, owned or used by the general public, such as roads, bridges, etcetera.
On Thursday the Supreme Court was asked, according to columnist George Will in the Charlotte Observer: "Can government profit by seizing the property of people of modest means and giving it to wealthy people who can pay more taxes than can be extracted from the original owners? The court answered yes." Or as Justice Antonin Scalia asked during oral arguments in February,"You can take from A and give to B if B pays more taxes?"
The majority opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, changed the meaning of the word "public" in the Constitution's "public use" phrase of the Fifth Amendment, aka the heartily fought for "Bill of Rights".
The dissent written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Clarence Thomas and Scalia, noted that the decision's beneficiaries will "likely" be those "with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." Doesn't this sound as though the conservatives are for the "little guy" who owns a plot of land in some nowhere Podunk and that the liberals are for the "evil" big corporations?
For more elucidation on this current New London and eminent domain "kerfuffle" amongst the bloggers, check out MuD & PHuD where Tom Carroll writes:
"First, let me thank Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom for his support and the link to yesterday's post (and also a thank you goes out to Bill at INDC Journal for the link). If anyone out there is interested in keeping your own property when a wealthy developer wants it, please spread the word and help us help these victims of governmental hyperpower in New London, CT.Trackedback at Outside the Beltway and at Captain's Quarters, where there is a discussion about "The Mark Twain Option". Sue Bob's Diary weighs in also.
Mary Katharine Ham of Townhall.com was kind enough to point me to a story done by The Insider Online that gives the background and brief bios of the homeowners involved. She also pointed to Institute for Justice, which is the organization who took this case to the Surpeme Court.
Multiple people have suggested joining the Castle Coalition whose stated goal is to fight unfair eminent domain claims by the government. Check out come of their success stories and become a member. Raven pointed me to a bit of potential good news, although I don't know whether or not it will help Susette Kelo et al."
Update: Chicago Boyz has a great view entitled "The Danger of Kelo".
[Supreme Court] [New London] [fifth amendment]