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September 20, 2011

With Kelo Apology, Judicial Contrition and Cowardice Are Displayed

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In 2010 and 2005 the author of the US Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case, Justice John Paul Stevens, expressed unease about his ruling in favor of Connecticuts's condemnors, suggesting that he was handcuffed by "settled" law even though he disagreed with the policy at play. He did not regret his decision but, according to the NY Times, addressing a bar association meeting in Las Vegas in 2005, he said:

''...I was convinced that the law compelled a result that I would have opposed if I were a legislator.''

...the eminent domain [Kelo] case that became the term's most controversial decision, he said that his majority opinion that upheld the government's ''taking'' of private homes for a commercial development in New London, Conn., brought about a result ''entirely divorced from my judgment concerning the wisdom of the program'' that was under constitutional attack.

His own view, Justice Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association, was that ''the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials.'' But he said that the planned development fit the definition of ''public use'' that, in his view, the Constitution permitted for the exercise of eminent domain.

Now comes Justice Richard N. Palmer of Connecticut's Supreme Court—the court responsible, in a 4-3 ruling, for propelling the plaintiffs' case up to the US Supreme Court—giving an apology to Susette Kelo for his majority vote, as witnessed by "Little Pink House" author Jeff Benedict. Benedicts's account of the apology, and his communication with Justice Palmer about publishing the account, reveals some very disturbing cognitive dissonance (and cowardice) not just in Palmer's mind, but in the general judicial mind. Palmer's "sorry" is followed by a sorry explanation of what he meant by "sorry."

Apparently his contrition is not about overturning his own ruling (something that Michigan's high court has done when it came to understand its own misguided 23-year old Poletown eminent domain ruling and overturned it—"settled law"? we think not) but that he didn't know the personal hardship that the New London homeowners had gone through and he couldn't have possibly known that the New London/Pfizer development plan would end up with a barren wasteland and a dumping ground for Hurricane Irene refuse, but that even if he had, rest assured this would not have changed his ruling because of "settled" law.

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Posted by eric at September 20, 2011 1:51 PM