Rally planned against eminent-domain ruling: Portsmouth (NH) Herald, 7/12/05

Citizens all across the country will rally today against a June Supreme Court decision that gives municipalities wider latitude in determining what property can be taken by eminent domain.

The rally in Portsmouth will take place a 7 p.m. in front of the North Church in Market Square.

"Citizens concerned about the recent Kelo v. New London Supreme Court decision that radically increased the government’s ability to take private property will meet with others all over the New England region to defend private property rights," said regional organizer Jim Perry.

The case involved New London, Conn. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, agreed the city was within its rights to take by eminent domain homes that were standing in the way of a development officials believed would be beneficial to the economic development of the city.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use, since the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government," Stevens wrote, adding that local officials are better positioned than federal judges to decide what’s best for a community.

He was joined in his opinion by other members of the court’s liberal wing, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, as well as Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy, in noting that states are free to pass additional protections if they see fit.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said the decision bowed to the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.

In dissent, O’Connor criticized the majority for abandoning the conservative principle of individual property rights and handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled.

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," O’Connor wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

Portsmouth Herald: www.seacoastonline.com