Thursday, June 23, 2005

This Land Was Your Land, This Land Is My Land

Great... just great.

The Rehnquist Supreme Court (through no fault of Justice Rehnquist I must add) has once again proven itself to be more disastrous than even the Warren Court.

Following its tradition of discovering rights which do not exist (think abortion and sodomy) and eviscerating rights spelled out in the Constitution's text (think regulation of political speech and gun control), the Rehnquist Court has now emptied the 5th Amendment's restrictions on public takings of private property of all meaning.

The 5th Amendment is remarkably clear:
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.

In Kelo et al v. City of New London, SCOTUS was faced with a municipality which sought to condemn certain land owned by private homeowners so that the property could be handed over to private business developers who promised the usual panacea benefits for the City... job growth, increased tax collections, etc.

Justice Stevens, speaking for a 5-4 majority, asserted that the condemnation was appropriate because the City of New London believes the taking of the private property "will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including , but by no means limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue."

The concept of private property (and that's all it is after today's ruling... just a concept) was blown to smithereens by our Supreme Court. If property can be taken at the whim of any municipality sensing more tax revenues in the air from a different use of the property, the public use restriction on the taking of property property now has about as much teeth as the limitations on the reach of the Commerce Clause.

I can only hope that Justice Kennedy's summer home is located in an area that is ideal for a strip mall...

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