Thursday, 27 July 2006

Property rights victory

The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit law firm that specializes in defending individual rights. Yes Virginia, it's an organisation full of honest lawyers -- if that doesn't sound too much like an oxymoron. You can read an interview with IJ's Scott Bullock here.

And they've just scored another victory. In Ohio. (That's right, they're an American organisation with no local parallels -- and I say that with great sadness.)

You'll remember that last year the US Supreme Court gave a decision in Kelo v New London that allowed the state government to confiscate private houses, and give them to a private developer -- and you might also remember Rand-reading Logan Darrow Clements who then put in a claim for the house and land of Justice David Souter in order to build the Lost Liberty Hotel, in which guests would find a copy of Atlas Shrugged where they might normally expect a Gideon Bible.

Anyway, in the first challenge of property rights law since Kelo, the IJ have scored a significant victory:
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that economic development isn't a sufficient reason under the state constitution to justify taking homes, putting a halt to a $125 million project of offices, shops and restaurants in a Cincinnati suburb that officials said would create jobs and add tax revenue...

"For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house," Justice Maureen O'Connor wrote in a case that pitted the city of Norwood against two couples trying to save their homes. "It is the taking of a home — the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made."

...“Our home is ours again!” exclaimed Joy Gamble. “The Ohio Supreme Court has stopped this piracy. Now all Ohioans are safe from the scourge of eminent domain for private profit.”

...Dana Berliner, an attorney for the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice that represented property owners in the case, said Wednesday's decision will have ramifications in high courts and legislatures across the country. "This case is really part of a trend throughout the country of states responding to and rejecting the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision last year," she said. "There are now 28 states that have taken legislative steps to protect owners more after that decision, and this case is the next movement in that trend, and I believe now not only legislatures but other courts are going to begin rejecting that terrible decision."
Let's hope so. Let's hope we're witnessing the rejection of the idea that government confiscation of private property rights is ever justified. And well done Dana, Scott and all the good folk at the Institute of Justice.

LINKS: Ohio's High Court backs property owners - Associated Press [Hat tip Bidinotto Blog] Ohio Supreme Court rules unanimously to to protect property from eminent domain abuse - Media Release from Institute for Justice
The supreme assault on private property: An interview with Scott Bullock - TNI
Institute for Justice website
Lost Liberty Hotel - Wikipedia

Property Rights, Politics-US, Libertarianism, Objectivism


  1. Just like 'The Castle'.

    Might see the Gambles in Bonnydoon!

  2. "Now all Ohioans are safe from the scourge of eminent domain for private profit."

    Why is private profit singled out? Does that make eminent domain ok for 'public' uses? And even being generous, such 'public' use would be to the political profit of those pollies who instigate it. Eminent domain is simply confiscation by force whether for private or public 'profit'.

  3. "Why is private profit singled out? Does that make eminent domain ok for 'public' uses?"

    Not in my mind it doesn't, nor does it make it morally okay for the good people at the Institute of Justice.

    However, the good people who wrote the US Constitution unfortunately allowed the use of eminent domain. It is one of the loopholes, such the "regulation of inter-state commerce" clause, that allowed big government to come thundering on through.

    What IJ are doing is only what they can do, to at least limit eminent domain only to what was originally, though mistakenly, intended by the Constitution.

    "Eminent domain is simply confiscation by force whether for private or public 'profit'."

    Yes it is, I agree with you. And so do IJ. If it was possible to change the Constitution ...


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