Eminent Domain Abuses and When Eminent Domain Doesn’t Work:
Under the power of eminent domain, the government can take away private
property for “public use” and with “just compensation.”
In other words, the government can force you to sell your property to
serve the public interest.
Unfortunately, the so-called “public use” component of eminent
domain sometimes gets privatized in the interest of “economic development.”
For example, consider
Inglewood City Council’s use of eminent domain for the new Clippers
basketball arena. Although the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center (IBEC) will
be privately owned, government officials argued the project would serve
the economic interests of the Inglewood community, but locals disagreed.
Still, 11 properties were taken by eminent domain.
Critics call this phenomenon “eminent domain for private gain,” and legal organizations like
Castle Coalition and the
Institute for Justice are fighting the abusive use of eminent domain (see the ‘Eminent
Domain Abuses’ section
Kelo v. New London
Kelo v. New London is one of the most reviled Supreme Court decisions in United States history.
In this case, the city of New London, Connecticut took over a poor neighborhood
as part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan.” In reality,
Pfizer wanted to use the space for a new research facility. When residents
heard that their homes had been taken for Pfizer’s private development,
they fought the use of eminent domain, and the case made it all the way
to the Supreme Court.
Sadly, the Supreme Court upheld New London’s decision because the
Pfizer lab would allegedly enhance the city’s “economic development.”
Worse still, Pfizer abandoned its plans soon after bulldozing the homes
in question, and the neighborhood became a wasteland.
Kelo v. New London, eminent domain was largely used for transportation (specifically railroads
and highways), parks, and war efforts. After
Kelo v. New London, 44 states reformed their eminent domain laws to prevent future abuses.
Nevertheless, the use of eminent domain remains a large
injustice in the United States.
One report from 2009 claims that 10,000 properties have been seized by cities for private developers,
and the number has only gone up since then.
Who Has the Power?
As the Foundation for Economic Education argues, “Eminent Domain for Private Gain Is Terrible and Cruel — Even When
It ‘Works.’” Local governments take private property and gamble on private plans
that may or may not enhance the local community. The only people who lose
are those who own the private property, to begin with.
By allowing eminent domain for “economic development,” all
a corporation must do is ask the local government to take a chance on
As one critic explains:
“Practically every house in the entire country would produce more jobs and
taxes as an office building, and everybody's small business would
produce more jobs and taxes if it were removed and turned into a Costco.”
Fortunately, watchdogs are looking out for eminent domain abuses, and politicians
and legislators are exploring eminent domain reform.
If you are
facing an eminent domain action you disagree with, it is worth talking to
an eminent domain attorney near you. At
Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP, we have been guiding clients through eminent domain cases for nearly
3 decades, and we can help you protect your best interests.
Learn more about your rights and legal options by contacting us for a case
evaluation and putting the power back into your hands – call us
at (888) 998-2031 or send us a message online
to get started today.