Eminent domain gets public hearings: Wisconsin Radio Network, 7/5/05

By Jackie Johnson

Eminent domain will soon get even more attention in our state. With so many questions, fears and confusion, Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager has decided to have four public hearings in the state to discuss eminent domain and how homeowners would be affected. Lautenschlager says she's concerned about the definition of the US Supreme Court interpretation of what could be an appropriate public taking. "If not more narrowly defined, [it] really leaves open the door for public corruption because high bidders could, by political favor, attempt to get from government properties which they desire."

Lautenschlager says she wants to have town hall type meetings, with people representing all sides of the issue. "You know many public takings do indeed enhance the public good. But it also, as I said, opens the door for political corruption. It certainly does impede on individual property rights. So I think all of these things need to be discussed and bring people into their government in terms of having their ideas and thoughts be known."

Last week's Supreme Court decision leaves considerable discretion up to the states in terms of defining public purpose on eminent domain laws. Lautenschlager says it pretty much leaves the door wide open for the states to do what they want. State law needs to be clarified one way or another, whether by constitutional amendment or clarifying state statutes. Lautenschlager says she'll consult with attorneys general in other states on the matter. She says she wants to avoid lawsuits based on ill-defined public purposes. No time or dates have been set for the meetings that will be held in Eau Claire, Janesville, Milwaukee and Wausau.

Wisconsin Radio Network: www.wrn.com