It has been just over six years since the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark takings ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. The court's widely publicized and mostly criticized ruling found that the City of New London could use the power of eminent domain to condemn a private residence for the public purpose of economic development. In Kelo, the court approved of the taking of a private home and giving the property to Pfizer Corporation for construction of its national headquarters and an urban village for revitalizing the City of New London. Shortly after the decision was issued, the United States Senate and House of Representatives both passed resolutions condemning (pun intended, sorry) the decision. The debate over Kelo and the ramifications of the decision continue unabated.
Forty-three states have adopted post-Kelo legislation imposing tighter restrictions on the use of eminent domain. The anger over the decision was refueled in 2009 when Pfizer decided to abandon New London and move its headquarters, and its 1,400 jobs, out of the City. Hundreds of acres of barren land, slated for hotels, offices and retail development which were never built, represent the new blight of New London. In response to Kelo and Pfizer's abandonment of New London, the House Judiciary Committee is currently considering the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2011 (the “Act”). The Act is intended to “prohibit eminent domain abuse” by states and the federal government by prohibiting the federal funding of state “economic development” (which is defined by the Act) where the power of eminent domain is invoked to acquire private property for the redevelopment. The Act would also prohibit the federal government from using its eminent domain powers for economic development. The Act would also give citizens a private right of action, a right to refer a violation to the attorney general, and the right to recover attorney and expert fees against any governmental body found to have violated the Act.
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