Threat of Eminent Domain Abuse Prompts Calling for Supreme Court Decision

A recent case of eminent domain abuse has been brought to the nation’s attention this week, when the Institute for Justice commented on the City of Milwaukee’s attempt to repossess a plot of land from the local Veterans of Foreign War post without paying just compensation. A ruling issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that the VFW stood to receive no compensation for the lease it has held since 1961.  The case is calling into question the responsibility of the government in its use of eminent domain; should it make payments equal to the value of the land itself, or equal to the value of all assets lost?  As Dana Berliner of IJ stated “It is completely impossible that just compensation for a 50-year or 60-year lease is zero.”

This abuse of eminent domain shines some light on an issue that has been consistently afflicting our nation in recent years.  Economic development is dependent on well-defined and secure private property rights.  When people are uncertain that they can safely occupy their home or run their business without fear of losing it to the government for an ambiguously defined "public" use, production stagnates as incentives to put more money into an establishment are lost.

The Institute for Justice and National Association of Home Builders want to bring the case before the Supreme Court.  If it agrees to hear the case, we can only hope that a ruling is given in favor of private establishments across the country, one where owners of repossessed land are given a just compensation for their lost assets, free from fear of being further abused by the government.