Kelo Endgame: Dery, Brelesky settle with New London seizers

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Two of the six remaining plaintiffs in the epic eminent domain battle Kelo v. New London have settled with the city's development authority. The Dery family, which has lived in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood for five generations, and Thelma Brelesky, whose son has lived there for thirty years, accepted an undisclosed sum in exchange for giving up their homes. The city had set May 31 as the final day for settlement with the plaintiffs. Lead plaintiff Susette Kelo says she's still fighting to keep her home.

Reason's previous Kelo coverage here, here, here, here, and here.

Thanks: Fred Nolan

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  1. I was saddened to read Judge Alex Kozinski’s reasoning that Kelo was a good decision in the interview in this month’s issue.

  2. Kelo’s single family home is being taken so that someone else can use the land to build a bigger single family home.

    That doesn’t augur well.

  3. We no longer own our property in this country. We merely occupy it until the State determines that somebody else should.

    Kelo marked the end of private property as a practical matter; until it is overturned, we are all only worth as much as we can generate in taxes.

  4. Clean Hands,

    Kelo was nothing but another nail in the coffin of property rights. The encouraging news is that, in the wake of Kelo v New London, many states & localities are enacting their own safeguards against horseshit landgrabs like this.

  5. They’re legislative safeguards, that can be torn down as easily as they were constructed, either by more legislation or by judicial fiat.

    Any right of eminent domain, it seems to me, is the camel’s nose in the tent — eminent domain as a whole needs to be torn down before we can once again be fully secure as owners of our property, and not just caretakers for the next designee.

  6. I honestly think we should amend the constitution to remove the just compensation clause. Just end the fifth amendment with “nor shall private property be taken for public use.”

  7. I wish people would read the Kelo decision. It is a decision that upholds the concept of Federalism. All the Supreme Court said was that the control of lands falls to the states. I’m sure the people of Ct don’t want people in Calif telling them how to use their lands. The needs for public use are different in each state and if there is an issue, it is with the state legislatures, not the federal government.

  8. I think it’s the “public use” that needs to be clarified.

  9. Clean Hands,

    In Libertopia, sure. But that kind of extreme (by today’s standards) viewpoint is going to get you laughed out of any serious debate that doesn’t happen to be populated entirely by libertarians. The inevitable questions will be thrown at you in rapid-fire form…

    “What about roads? Railways? Utilities? Should a single landowner be able to halt an entire superhighway construction project just because he enjoys the view out of his dining room window? Should an entire section of a county be without electricity because one guy owns a strip of land and wants to blackmail the city into paying millions upon millions of dollars for it?”

    Arguments that can easily be countered with idealist libertarian principles, but of very little pragmatic use in our current climate. As libertarian as I am, and I am pretty damned libertarian, I can’t say that Eminent Domain is all bad—it just needs to be reigned in.

  10. Clean Hands,

    In Libertopia, sure. But that kind of extreme (by today’s standards) viewpoint is going to get you laughed out of any serious debate that doesn’t happen to be populated entirely by libertarians. The inevitable questions will be thrown at you in rapid-fire form…

    “What about roads? Railways? Utilities? Should a single landowner be able to halt an entire superhighway construction project just because he enjoys the view out of his dining room window? Should an entire section of a county be without electricity because one guy owns a strip of land and wants to blackmail the city into paying millions upon millions of dollars for it?”

    Arguments that can easily be countered with idealist libertarian principles, but of very little pragmatic use in our current climate. As libertarian as I am, and I am pretty damned libertarian, I can’t say that Eminent Domain is all bad—it just needs to be reigned in.

  11. Until we change our system radically, I don’t see tossing out eminent domain altogether. However, I’m all for reining it in dramatically. The post-Kelo reaction by the states seems to be a step in that direction, which is what I suspect the SCOTUS wanted in the first place. Stay tuned.

  12. Clean Hands,

    In Libertopia, sure. But that kind of extreme (by today’s standards) viewpoint is going to get you laughed out of any serious debate that doesn’t happen to be populated entirely by libertarians. The inevitable questions will be thrown at you in rapid-fire form…

    “What about roads? Railways? Utilities? Should a single landowner be able to halt an entire superhighway construction project just because he enjoys the view out of his dining room window? Should an entire section of a county be without electricity because one guy owns a strip of land and wants to blackmail the city into paying millions upon millions of dollars for it?”

    Arguments that can easily be countered with idealist libertarian principles, but of very little pragmatic use in our current climate. As libertarian as I am, and I am pretty damned libertarian, I can’t say that Eminent Domain is all bad—it just needs to be reigned in.

  13. Sorry about that.

    [insert ubiquitous quip about the squirrels running the comment software here]

  14. Evan, the idea that one person could keep an entire country deprived of electricity is laughable to say the least. NO one house can stop a road nor a railway. And to boot, you know that isn’t blackmail. There’s nothing nefarious about valuing your home more than other people; there’s nothing dirty about that. I can’t say the same for when you can negotiate to “purchase” land for someone with implicit threats that you’ll simply take the land.

    More so, the idea that those highways are good would be disputed by many (eg the anti-sprawl camp). And it’s too bad in other situations that one owners objections couldn’t have actually prevented projects. How many traditionally black nieghborhoods have we seen destroyed by these projects? How many urban renewal projects destroyed buildings that were architectual treasures? So what public was served by those actions?

  15. I wish people would read the Kelo decision. It is a decision that upholds the concept of Federalism.

    Ummm, I am not sure federalism applies in this case. States don’t get to decide to ignore the constitution.

    The tragedy of the Kelo ruling is the decision that public use is the same as public benefit, which means anything the local board decides it means.

    With this in place, why not use eminent domain to force out anyone percieved to lower proerty values? That used to be blacks, or gays, by I guess it would be convicted sex offenders now.

    Clearly a public benfit, right?

  16. If I understand correctly, property taxes are supposed to be revenue neutral, that is to say, the taxes collected on a property should match the expenditures by the town,or states. Simply because a property is assessed for more taxes, does not necessarily directly translate to any public benefit per se, much less equate to public use. There seems to be a conspiracy to promote a false argument by people who really should know better. All in all, it does not pass the smell test.

  17. I wish people would read the Kelo decision. It is a decision that upholds the concept of Federalism.

    No it didn’t. That is a pretty tortured idea of federalism. You’re confusing the striking down of a general restraint on all government interference in private affairs with the striking down of a federally mandated interference in private affairs in favor of the states. But there was Federal law that the Supreme Court was striking down and returning to the states, instead it was for all practical purposes removing the “public use” clause from the Fifth Amendment. This decision not only allows the state to take your property for any reason for which it can manufacture an economic argument (which is to say any reason it wants), but it allows the Federal Government just as much power to strip you of your property. To call this a victory for federalism is absurd.

    Of course, even if it was a victory for federalism, so what? Federalism is not an end, in and of itself. Your claim is similar to saying that if the states were allowed to restrict speech any way they want it would be a victory for federalism.

    The needs for public use are different in each state and if there is an issue, it is with the state legislatures, not the federal government.

    But again, this decision did absolutely nothing to prevent the Federal Government from taking your land if it wants to do so – in fact it made it easier for it as well as the states.

  18. Ugh, that should be “But there was no Federal law… in the first paragraph above.

  19. The encouraging news is that, in the wake of Kelo v New London, many states & localities are enacting their own safeguards against horseshit landgrabs like this.

    Except here in Connecticut, where it stayed at the bottom of the legislative docket until the General Assembly’s session ended.

    Who is John Galt?

    Who is Suzette Kelo?

  20. Evan,

    Should a well to do section of Albemarle County, Va. with the support of the COunty supervisors be able to forstall, for the last 25 yrs, the construction of a “much needed” bypass, and the project may in fact be dead? Life still goes on here. I think you give up your libertarian principles too easy. Why is the construction of a road more important than a society of people living by the principal of voluntary exchange? Maybe landowners/homeowners would be more willing to negotiate if they knew that the people who wanted their property couldn’t just come in and confiscate and throw money at them, and had to show some respect toward the owner and work hard at offering him something that he would willingly agree to.

    Lots of things don’t get done in this world that some people want because other people won’t go along with them, and so people have to make do and change their goals, and figure other ways to accomplish what they want.

    I appreciate your concerns and I ask myself the same questions and I can’t give definitive answers, except to say that I would prefer to live in a world where noone could take another man’s property without his consent. If that were the ground rule then we would figure ways to accomplish our goals that I can’t even imagine now, but I know it would be done and that our society would thrive in many ways because of it, not the least of which would be a pervasive feeling of good will towards your fellowman. Kelo is not an aberation in my opinion; it is logical and unsurprising outcome of a mistake that was made 220 odd years ago.

  21. Evan,

    But that kind of extreme (by today’s standards) viewpoint is going to get you laughed out of any serious debate that doesn’t happen to be populated entirely by libertarians.

    This is a very strange sentiment.

    Matt,

    It is a decision that upholds the concept of Federalism.

    Not everything can be defended under the concept of federalism. Imagine for example if states tried to enact laws which legalized slavery. Would that be justified under the concept of federalism? No.

  22. Phil — This is a very strange sentiment.

    Whether it’s strange depends on your expectations for this discussion. Evan’s point is very important as far as promoting property rights to broader society goes. If we’re interested in actually accomplishing positive change, if we’re interested in reality, we have to consider what positions to present to society for consideration, if we’re honestly interested in causing the kind of change we’d like to see instead of being irrelevant.

  23. As far as I can tell, the only way for the plaintiffs to suceed is for them to practice CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, or more specifically,for thyem to vandalize the London co.’s property once it’s constructed.
    That way, using eminent domain just might become unprofitable for private developers.
    And this is somewhat off topic, but why CAN’T YOU PEOPLE FUCKING SPELL!!!!

  24. Correction: “them,” not “thyem”

  25. “I think it’s the “public use” that needs to be clarified.”

    The argument has often been made against the Kelo decision that a redevelopment plan isn’t a public use, because the property won’t end up in the hands of the public.

    Let’s do a thought experiment: consider regulatory takings. If the legislature passes a set of regulations that make it impossible for you to subdivide and develop your ten acre property that currently has one house on it – in other words, if you can no longer carry out your own private redevelopment plan – have you been deprived of the use of your property? The Supreme Court, the Institute for Justice, and the the Reason Foundation all say yes. Even if you can physically occupy your property, the fact that you cannot carry out a redevelopment plan means that you have been deprived of its use.

    What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: either the redevelopment of property for more expensive, higher-value homes and businesses is a use, or it is not.

  26. In other words, the “public use” proposed here is not the collection of hotels and shops and condos; it’s the carrying out of the redevelopment plan.

    Perhaps they could call it “Millpond Estates.” 😉

  27. My latest, which is about 36 hours further along than this post and includes a map, is here:
    http://www.bizzyblog.com/?p=2293

    City Council meeting on Monday night is when they will come up with a settlement the remaining holdouts can agree with, or start a 90-day eviction dance.

    Any info you have on how we can learn what happens immediately will be welcome.

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