City's Desire for Revenue Doesn't Trump Private Property Rights

Los Angeles (December 4, 2004) — Reason Foundation submitted a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to protect the property rights of the New London, Connecticut, families being evicted from their homes so that developers can build luxury condos, a hotel, and office space.

Wilhelmina Dery has lived in her Fort Trumbull home since her birth in 1918. Her family has lived in the neighborhood since 1895, and her son lives next door. In 1997, Susette Kelo, a nurse, bought and restored a home in the same neighborhood. Kelo and the Derys are just a sampling of the middle-class families that New London hopes to displace so that it can collect significantly more tax revenue from newer buildings.

Reason's brief, filed on behalf of Kelo and the other homeowners in Kelo v. City of New London, demonstrates that New London's attempt to seize non-blighted property and transfer it to private parties for their own private use is unconstitutional, violating the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which states "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation."

"This property is not being seized for a public use, like the construction of roads or a public park," said Daniel P. Muino, co-author of the brief and an attorney at the prestigious firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. "This is simply the transfer of private property from one set of private owners to another. The city prefers expensive condos and office space because those developments can presumably produce more taxes and jobs than the homes of Ms. Kelo, the Derys and the other Fort Trumbull residents. If new jobs and higher tax revenues are valid reasons to kick people out of their homes, we are all at risk."

Reason's amicus curiae brief, prepared by Mark A. Perry, Thomas H. Dupree, Jr., and Mr. Muino, of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, shows that the city and the New London Development Corporation clearly fail to meet any of the standards previously established by the Court as valid under the Takings Clause:

  1. Direct government use of property: In this case the condemned property will not be owned by the government nor used for a government function.
  2. Highways, roads and other public facilities to which the citizens have a right of access: The proposed condemnation does not fit into this category since the property taken will not be open to the public, but will be under the complete and exclusive control of private parties.
  3. Railroads, utility lines and other facilities operated by common carriers or those acting in the manner of common carriers: Neither the developer nor the private parties who may eventually own the residences and offices in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood are common carriers.
  4. Urban renewal plans to remedy the public nuisance created by blighted neighborhoods: The condemnation was not aimed at removing blight, but at transferring desirable land in a prime location to a private developer for its own private use.
  5. Hawaiian land reform: The land reform at issue in Hawaii Housing Auth. v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229 (1984), was a one-time solution to a unique problem arising from the peculiarities of Hawaiian history. The New London development plan was not designed to remedy excessive land concentration left over from an earlier politico-economic system, as in Midkiff. Instead, the plan merely transfers the Fort Trumbull property from one set of private owners to another, without any justification beyond the desire to generate more tax revenues and jobs.

Full Brief Online

The full brief, filed on Dec. 3, 2004, is available at www.reason.org/KeloAmicusFinal.pdf.

About Reason

Reason Foundation is a national research and educational organization dedicated to advancing individual liberties, including private property rights.

Contact

Chris Mitchell, Media Relations, Reason Foundation, (800) 582-2245 ext. 3037




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