Property Rights

Assessing the Kelo Apology


Daniel Goldstein, the Brooklyn homeowner who led the legal battle against the Atlantic Yards eminent domain boondoggle, offers a few choice words in response to yesterday's big news that Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard Palmer has apologized to homeowner Susette Kelo for his role in her notorious eminent domain case. As Goldstein writes:

[Reporter Jeff] 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.

Meanwhile at the Volokh Conspiracy, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin says that Justice Palmer "lets himself off the hook too easily." According to Somin:

It is true that the justices could not have known for certain that the Kelo condemnations would fail to produce the economic development that supposedly justified the use of eminent domain in the first place. But they could and should have known that such results have often occurred in similar cases, that the New London development plan justifying these particular condemnations was flimsy, and that there was no legal requirement compelling either the city of New London or the new private owners of the condemned property to produce enough development to offset the destruction caused by the takings. Some of these points were in fact noted in Justice Zarella's dissenting opinion in the Connecticut Supreme Court.

For more on Kelo and its aftermath, click here.