Kelo v. City of New London
Facts of the case
New London, a city in Connecticut, used its eminent domain authority to seize private property to sell to private developers. The city said developing the land would create jobs and increase tax revenues. Susette Kelo and others whose property was seized sued New London in state court. The property owners argued the city violated the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which guaranteed the government will not take private property for public use without just compensation. Specifically, the property owners argued taking private property to sell to private developers was not public use. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled for New London.
Does a city violate the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause if the city takes private property and sells it for private development, with the hopes the development will help the city’s bad economy?
No. in a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the majority held that the city’s taking of private property to sell for private development qualified as a “public use” within the meaning of the takings clause. The city was not taking the land simply to benefit a certain group of private individuals, but was following an economic development plan. Such justifications for land takings, the majority argued, should be given deference. The takings here qualified as “public use” despite the fact that the land was not going to be used by the public. The Fifth Amendment did not require “literal” public use, the majority said, but the “broader and more natural interpretation of public use as ‘public purpose.'”
Writing Assignment –
Open the following Oyez.org web page: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2004/04-108. Read the syllabus and the summary of the case (links provided on website). Then listen (and read along) with the Oral Arguments of the Case made by Kelo’s attorney, Scott Bullock and New London’s attorney, Wesley W. Horton. Then listen to the opinion given by the court (Justice Stevens). Read the excerpts from the dissenting opinion (Justice O’Connor).
This Assignment is NOT to be in essay form. Simply list and THOROUGHLY answer the questions. Here you are not working on the structure of your papers, but rather refining your ability to convey information with clarity and make compelling arguments!!!
Answer the following:
1. What is eminent domain? Is it an appropriate power of the government?
2. What restrictions – if any – does the Fifth Amendment place on the exercise of eminent domain (“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”)?
3. What was the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London?
4. Read the Fifth Amendment again. Do you think our founding fathers would approve of the Kelo decision? Does it matter? Does private economic development satisfy the “public use” requirement? Is it appropriate for either the state or national government to seize property from one private entity (an individual citizen like Suzette Kelo) and grant it to another private entity (a corporation like Pfizer)?
5. Which political body decides what is “public use” and what is not?
6. Is the “public use” requirement read too broadly, too narrowly or exactly right in the case of Berman v. Parker (1954).
7. Interpret the political cartoon from Gary Brookins below, which was published immediately following the case. Explain its message?
8. If you were a Justice on the Court, how would you rule in this case? Do you agree with Justice Stevens or Justice O’Connor? Explain your argument while discussing the tension between individual liberty vs. the “public good.” For more information on Kelo versus City of New London check out : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London#:~:text=City%20of%20New%20London%2C%20545,owner%20to%20further%20economic%20development.
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