Life After Kelo v. City of New London

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the infamous and universally detested Supreme Court decision on Kelo v. City of New London. Susette Kelo’s land was condemned and given to the Pfizer Corporation so it could build a new research and development base. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that New London was in compliance with the takings clause of the 5th amendment, because the “public” would benefit economically. The ruling gave the government an unprecedented amount of power over the property of private citizens.

Today, the land that Kelo’s house once stood upon is now barren, and the supposed economic benefits never materialized because Pfizer never built the base.

While the immediate aftermath was tragic, the case sparked a huge backlash that brought much attention to the issue of eminent domain abuse. According to the Institute of Justice: 43 states passed constitutional amendments or statues that reformed eminent domain laws to better protect property rights, nine state high courts ruled against the use of eminent domain for economic development, and at least 44 projects—where eminent domain was to be used for private gain—have been defeated since the Kelo ruling.

Yet the fight is hardly over. Congressman John Sullivan of Oklahoma has introduced the Private Property Rights Protection and Government Accountability Act, which will help end eminent domain abuse. The legislation will limit federal funds for 10 years to any state that attempts to use eminent domain to gain tax revenue. The bill will also give property owners greater legal protection when arguing against the state in court.

The only good outcome of the Kelo case is that it greatly increased public awareness about eminent domain abuse. To continue the fight, and score a win for property rights protection, PRA encourages everyone to tell their Senators and Representatives to support Rep. Sullivan’s bill.

(To download a copy of PRA’s letter of support, click here.)