In the matter of Susette Kelo, et al. v. City of New London, Connecticut, et al. the US Supreme Court has decided to reduce property rights even further.
A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.
The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.
In 1997, Pfizer, the giant pharmaceutical firm that makes such drugs as Zoloft, Viagra and Celebrex, began discussions with state and local officials about a $300 million research plant that would bring 2,000 jobs. It was the first time a major manufacturer had expressed interest in moving to New London in more than 100 years.
In a March 1999 letter, George Milne, president of Pfizer's Central Research Division, wrote that the company's New London expansion "requires the world-class redevelopment planned for the adjacent 90 acres," which included Kelo's neighborhood, encompassing about 115 properties. Milne said Pfizer needed a 200-room waterfront hotel, a conference center, a physical-fitness area, extended-stay residential units and 80 units of housing.
While Chief Justice William Rehnquist along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented the surprise here is that on this case Sandra Day O'Connor opted not to go over to the Dark Side. But Anthony Kennedy decided to spend some time on the Dark Side so he along with John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer voted for another reduction in property rights. The Supreme Court Legislature thinks governments know better what should be done with our property.
Jusice O'Connor's dissent even shows clarity of reasoning. She says the Court has deleted "for public use" from the Takings Clause. (and that link has the full decision)
Over two centuries ago, just after the Bill of Rights was ratified, Justice Chase wrote:
"An act of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority ... . A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean... . [A] law that takes property from A. and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done it." Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386, 388 (1798) (emphasis deleted).
Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.
Okay kids, that's clear enough isn't it?
O'Connor knows how this ruling is going to be used: "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process". She thinks the ruling makes a mockery of the intent of the Founding Fathers.
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. "[T]hat alone is a just government," wrote James Madison, "which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own." For the National Gazette, Property, (Mar. 29, 1792), reprinted in 14 Papers of James Madison 266 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983).
Obviously James Madison and company made a mistake and the Supreme Legislature has taken the needed steps to correct their error. Here we have the uncorrected original 5th Amendment to the US Constitution.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Note that I've italicized the offending phrase. Now, if you have a printed copy of the US constitution, perhaps in some book, get some white-out or dark ink and just cover over the words "for public use". Your new, corrected, and in the minds of the majority of the Supreme Legislature, greatly improved version of the 5th Amendment should read as follows:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken, without just compensation.
That's the 5th Amendment Americans (and legal and illegal aliens in US territory) will henceforth live under.
Another part of the Constitution has been made optional by this and other decisions like it: The Constitutional amendment process. Article V needs to be rewritten to include mention of the ability of a majority of the US Supreme Court to rewrite the US Constitution at will.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Though I can think of another alternative: Start impeaching Supreme Court judges. Make them defend their actions in trials in the US Senate.
"With today's decision, no one's property is safe," said Roger Pilon, director of the Center for Constitutional Studies, at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank. "Any time a government official thinks someone else can make better use of your property than you're doing, he can order it condemned and transferred," Pilon said in a statement.
Note that all the Supreme Court justices appointed by Democrats are firmly on the Dark Side on this decision while the justices chosen by Republican Presidents split on this with only some of them (Souter and Kennedy) going over to the Dark Side. This mirrors the larger role the Democratic and Republican Parties play in contemporary America. On some subjects the Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats.
You can read all the original court papers filed for this case.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 June 23 10:31 AM Civilizations Decay|