The idea of eminent domain was enacted in the United States in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. Article V of the Bill of Rights states “No person …shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” This has direct correlation to Article III, which says the US government may not force American citizens to house soldiers without just compensation.
Today, the idea of eminent domain has a much different tone. While the federal government is not necessarily forcing the quartering of troops in private homes, attempts have been made to snatch private land and private property right out from under American citizens. The Property Rights Alliance works to bring these instances of eminent domain to public knowledge and protect the private property rights of all Americans.
Probably the most commonly cited example of eminent domain abuse was the United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London (2005). The Court ruled that the government may use the power of eminent domain to expropriate property for private to private transfer under the ambiguous title of “economic development”. As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Kelo, the government’s power of eminent domain has become almost limitless, providing victimized citizens with few means to protect their property. Four years later – after fighting residents and paying court fees – the Pfizer plant was ultimately abandoned, and now lies empty.
Several states have independently passed legislation to limit their power to eminent domain, and the Supreme Courts of Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio have barred the practice under their state constitutions. In response to the nationally unpopular Kelo decision, 42 states either prohibited or curbed their ability to take land by eminent domain for reasons of economic development.
Similar to the idea of eminent domain, regulatory takings occur when the government literally regulates a piece of property out of the hands of its private owner without actually changing the titled ownership. One of the many problems with regulatory takings is that such regulations often come down from the federal government, which tramples on states’ rights in the process.