7/15/2005

California attempts end run around eminent domain: Inman News (Emeryville CA), 7/15/05

Bill would limit government ability to seize real estate

Members of California's senate and assembly have introduced bills that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot reducing the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on eminent domain.

California Senator Tom McClintock, R-Simi Valley, introduced bill SCA 15 and Assemblymember Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22, which mirrors SCA 15.

Both bills seek to put a constitutional amendment on the state ballot. One part of the proposed amendment states, "Private property may not be taken or damaged for private use."

It further states, "Private property may be taken by eminent domain only for a stated public use…Property taken by eminent domain shall be owned and occupied by the condemner or may be leased only to entities that are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission."

The move is an attempt at an end run around the recent U.S. eminent domain decision in Kelo v. City of New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local governments can seize individuals' homes and businesses against their will to make way for shopping malls and other private economic development.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court said government agencies can take private property for economic development, and even transfer it to another private party.

The ruling was a loss for residents of New London, Conn., who petitioned against the use of eminent domain, arguing that cities have no right to take their properties unless the projects have a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to improve blighted neighborhoods, the AP reported.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the court opinion, affirming that New London's proposed disposition of petitioners' property qualifies as "public use." Stevens was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that cities should not be able to uproot families with unlimited authority to accommodate developers. She was joined by Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and the Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.


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