The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The National Law Journal has an interesting article profiling a forthcoming movie about Kelo v. City of New London, one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions of the last several decades (free registration unfortunately required):
The U.S. Supreme Court soon may be the subject of a casting call for the movie version of one of its more controversial rulings.
Adapting a book by Jeff Benedict, filmmakers Ted and Courtney Balaker of Korchula Productions plan to have cameras rolling next summer for The Little Pink House, the story of Susette Kelo's unsuccessful legal battle to save her home and her historic, working class neighborhood of Fort Trumbull from eminent domain by the city of New London, Conn.
The film will be shot and released in 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo v. City of New London.
Sadly, the Kelo takings failed to produce the promised "economic development" that supposedly justified them. The condemned property lies empty to this day, almost a decade after the Supreme Court decision. But the Kelo decision did generate a massive and unprecedented political backlash that led to the enactment of eminent domain reform laws in 45 states. While many proved to be cosmetic in nature, some are likely to be effective. Moreover, Kelo shattered the seeming consensus that held that virtually any conceivable public benefit qualifies as a "public use" authorizing the condemnation of private property under the Fifth Amendment. Today, there is an ongoing debate over the meaning of "public use" among scholars and judges, with many state courts repudiating Kelo as a guide to the interpretation of their state constitutions.
The Balakers recently published a USA Today op ed describing their movie project, which I commented on here. I really look forward to seeing the movie. The story of the case is easily dramatic enough to make a good film, though some of the legal questions involved are not so easily dramatized.
I consider the legal and policy issues raised by Kelo and its aftermath in my forthcoming book, The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain, which will be the first book about Kelo by a legal scholar.