Seized -- for what?


Pfizer announced this week that the company would close its former research and development headquarters in Connecticut -- the project for which the city of New London infamously used its power of eminent domain to seize the properties of Susette Kelo and her neighbors, after that seizure was OK'd by the U.S. Supreme Court in a highly controversial ruling.

"This was the same bogus development plan that five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court refused to question when the property owners of New London pleaded to have their homes spared from the wrecking ball," noted John Kramer of the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that represented Ms. Kelo.

"Now, more than four years after the redevelopment scheme passed constitutional muster -- allowing government to take land from one private owner only to hand that land over to another private party who happens to have more political influence -- the plant that had been the magnet for the development is closing its doors and the very land where Susette Kelo's home once stood remains barren to all but feral cats, seagulls and weeds," Mr. Kramer wrote Monday.

Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case for the Institute for Justice, said, "Project supporters blame the economic downturn for this turn of events. That is all the more reason why taxpayer dollars should not be put at risk in speculative and risky development schemes."

Whether intended or not, much good was to eventually come from the wrongheaded Kelo ruling.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the IJ and co-counsel in the Kelo case, points out "In the face of the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo ruling, 43 states have now reformed their laws to better protect property owners. What's more, seven state high courts have stepped in post-Kelo to protect the rights of homeowners against eminent domain abuse."

Here in Nevada, the Kelo decision -- along with a handful of eminent domain abuses in downtown Las Vegas -- led voters to enact the PISTOL initiative, the People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land, spearheaded by former District Judge Don Chairez and local eminent domain attorney Kermit Waters.

The importance of such efforts becomes clear in the wake of the failed Kelo development.

"Today's announcement ... demonstrates the folly of government plans that involve massive corporate welfare and that abuse eminent domain for private development," said Mr. Bullock. "The majority opinion in Kelo v. New London described the ... project as a 'carefully considered' plan, but it has been an unmitigated disaster from start -- and now -- to finish."

 

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