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February 10, 2009

Little Pink House: the absorbing story behind the Kelo case (but not the legal complexities)

Atlantic Yards Report, Book Review

Jeff Benedict’s new book, Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage, comes with an additional subtitle, “One woman’s historic battle against eminent domain.”

So we know that the book will focus on the remarkable and enduring effort by Susette Kelo, a woman who stood up when redevelopment efforts in New London, CT, aimed at her hard-won home, and, with a handful of neighbors and the help of savvy lawyers, took the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. And we get a hint that the book, though an impressively dramatic tale, barely sketches the bigger picture.

In the 2005 Supreme Court decision, the city won the battle--gaining permission to condemn a small piece [Parcel 4-A, below] of a 90-acre planned site--but lost the war, given the massive national backlash against eminent domain used for economic development and the significant, if mixed, responses by legislatures and courts in some 43 states to tighten eminent domain under state constitutions. And nothing's been built in New London.
Though Benedict has a law degree, the book can’t serve as a guide to the legal controversy. Most of the book focuses on the machinations and struggles leading up to the historic Supreme Court case, with virtually no analysis of the decision, and a brief reference to its impact. It’s as if Benedict was so worn out by reconstructing the fight that he punted on the fallout.


Posted by lumi at February 10, 2009 5:48 AM