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October 28, 2011

Bill of Frights! Can the Government take your Home?

A More Perfect Blog
by Robert Chapman-Smith

What could be more frightening than violations of our constitutional rights? But is everything that appears to be a violation actually one? This week we’ll explore some current constitutional issues ripped from the headlines, and delve into some questions about whether rights are being violated. We hope you enjoy our Bill of Frights!

“For every man’s house is looked upon by the law to be his castle of defense and asylum …” Sir William Blackstone, an english jurist from the 18th century, said these words in his seminal work Commentaries on the Laws of England. Though not an American, Blackstone’s words are reflected in American law. But some believe the principle that one’s home is respected by legal institutions is under fire in the United States through the abuse and overuse of eminent domain.

The Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment empowers the national government to seize property needed for “public use,” but it also restricts government by requiring it to provide just compensation to the owner. The Supreme Court has applied these restrictions to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet from 1998 through 2002, the Institute for Justice documented 10,000 properties in 41 states where eminent domain was used to transfer property from private citizens to private developers whose planned projects promise to boost the local economy.

The proposed redevelopment projects vary in scope and rationale. Some are done in the name of urban renewal and the cleaning up of “blighted” neighborhoods. In an example from 2003 , New York City seized property in Brooklyn so that Bruce Ratner could build a stadium and bring his New Jersey Nets basketball franchise into the city. At the heart of the disputes of such projects is the definition of the Fifth’s Amendment’s words, “public use”.

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NoLandGrab: Frightening, indeed.

Posted by eric at October 28, 2011 1:55 PM