Synopses & Reviews
On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could condemn fifteen residential properties in the Fort Trumbull area in order to promote and#147;economic developmentand#8221; by transferring them to a new private owner. The use of eminent domain to take private property for public works is generally considered a permissible and#147;public useand#8221; under the Fifth Amendment. In New London, however, the land was condemned to pursue private economic development. When the Supreme Court upheld these takings in Kelo v. City of New London
it empowered the grasping hand of the state and enfeebled the invisible hand of the market.
In this detailed analysis of one of the most contentious Supreme Court cases in modern times, Ilya Somin argues that Kelo represents a seriousand#151;and dangerousand#151;error. Not only are economic development and closely related blight condemnations unconstitutional under both originalist and most and#147;living constitutionand#8221; theories of legal interpretation, they also tend to victimize the poor and the politically weak, and to destroy more economic value than they create. Kelo exemplifies these patterns: the neighbors who chose to fight their evictions had little political power, while the influential Pfizer corporation played an important role in persuading officials to proceed with the project. In the end, the poorly conceived development plan failed: the condemned land lies empty to this day, occupied only by feral cats. A notably unpopular verdict, Kelo triggered an unprecedented political backlash, with forty-five states passing new laws intended to limit the use of eminent domain. But many of the new state laws turned out to impose few or no genuine constraints on the governmentand#8217;s power to condemn property. The Kelo backlash led to significant progress, but not nearly as much as it would first appear.
Despite its outcome, the closely divided 5and#150;4 ruling in Kelo shattered what many believed to be a consensus that virtually any condemnation qualifies as a public use under the Fifth Amendment. It also showed that there is widespread opposition to economic development takings. With controversy over this issue sure to continue, The Grasping Hand offers a thorough analysis of the case alongside a broader history of the dispute over the meaning of public use and the use of eminent domain, and an evaluation of options for reform.
"Benedict (The Mormon Way of Doing Business) has taken a complicated court case centered on eminent domain and turned it into a page-turner with a conscience. In 1997, an EMT named Susette Kelo left her husband, bought a cottage and started over in the economically depressed Ft. Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn. In February 1998, the New London Development Corporation began trying to muscle the neighborhood into selling homes to make way for a Pfizer research complex. Benedict's passionate account is rife with heroes and villains he delights in pillorying Kelo's foil, Claire Gaudiani, the president of Connecticut College who lured Pfizer to consider New London. The fight escalated when the city tried exercising eminent domain to seize the homes of Kelo and others who refused to sell, leading to the case, Kelo v. City of New London, reaching the Supreme Court in 2005. Raising important questions about the use of economic development as a justification for displacing citizens, this book will leave readers indignant and inspired." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Suzette Kelo was just trying to rebuild her life when she purchased a broken-down Victorian house perched on the waterfront in New London, CT. The house wasn't particularly fancy, but with lots of hard work Suzette was able to turn it into a home that was important to her, a home that represented her new found independence.
Little did she know that the City of New London, desperate to revive its flailing economy, wanted to raze her house and the others like it that sat along the waterfront in order to win a lucrative Pfizer pharmaceutical contract that would bring new business into the city. Kelo and fourteen neighbors flat out refused to sell, so the city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain to condemn their homes, launching one of the most extraordinary legal cases of our time, a case that ultimately reached the United States Supreme Court.
In Little Pink House, award-winning investigative journalist Jeff Benedict takes us behind the scenes of this case -- indeed, Suzette Kelo speaks for the first time about all the details of this inspirational true story as one woman led the charge to take on corporate America to save her home.
When Suzette Kelo refused to sell her home to make way for a pharmaceutical plant, her city decided to exercise its power of eminent domain and launched one of the most extraordinary legal cases of modern times. An award-winning investigative journalist details how one woman led the charge to take on corporate America.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could condemn fifteen residential properties in order to transfer them to a new private owner. Although the Fifth Amendment only permits the taking of private property for andldquo;public use,andrdquo; the Court ruled that the transfer of condemned land to private parties for andldquo;economic developmentandrdquo; is permitted by the Constitutionandmdash;even if the government cannot prove that the expected development will ever actually happen. The Courtandrsquo;s decision in Kelo v. City of New London
empowered the grasping hand of the state at the expense of the invisible hand of the market.
In this detailed study of one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in modern times, Ilya Somin argues that Kelo was a grave error. Economic development and andldquo;blightandrdquo; condemnations are unconstitutional under both originalist and most andldquo;living constitutionandrdquo; theories of legal interpretation. They also victimize the poor and the politically weak for the benefit of powerful interest groups and often destroy more economic value than they create. Kelo itself exemplifies these patterns. The residents targeted for condemnation lacked the influence needed to combat the formidable government and corporate interests arrayed against them.and#160; Moreover, the cityandrsquo;s poorly conceived development plan ultimately failed: the condemned land lies empty to this day, occupied only by feral cats. The Supreme Courtandrsquo;s unpopular ruling triggered an unprecedented political reaction, with forty-five states passing new laws intended to limit the use of eminent domain. But many of the new laws impose few or no genuine constraints on takings. The Kelo backlash led to significant progress, but not nearly as much as it may have seemed.
Despite its outcome, the closely divided 5-4 ruling shattered what many believed to be a consensus that virtually any condemnation qualifies as a public use under the Fifth Amendment. It also showed that there is widespread public opposition to eminent domain abuse. With controversy over takings sure to continue, The Grasping Hand offers the first book-length analysis of Kelo by a legal scholar, alongside a broader history of the dispute over public use and eminent domain and an evaluation of options for reform.
Ilya Sominand#8217;s The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain is the definitive review of one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases of the 21st century.and#160; Somin provides a thorough analysis of the caseand#8217;s historic and factual background along with the broader history of American public-purpose takings and the challenges posed by economic-development takings.and#160; The book offers a detailed account of the trajectory of the Kelo case itself, from the neighbors electing to fight their eviction through finding legal representation via a collection of strange-bedfellow public-interest groups.and#160; The litigatorsand#8217; strategies are examined and Somin brings us into the Supreme Court to scrutinize the thrust and parry of oral argument.and#160; Sominand#8217;s close reading and incisive critique of the Kelo opinion is the heart of the book.and#160; Holding that the Court made several serious doctrinal errors, Somin carefully parses the majority opinion, concurrences, and dissents to show where the Justices went wrong, and even offers some responsible speculation about why.and#160; A notably unpopular verdict, Kelo sparked significant political backlash.and#160; Somin takes a qualitative and quantitative tour through the large number of new state laws passed in the wake of Kelo, studying the mechanisms by which they were passed, their effectiveness, and public awareness of these new laws.and#160; The work concludes with recommendations toward reform, or prohibition, of takings justified on the premise of blight or hoped-for private economic development.
About the Author
and#160;Ilya Somin is professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He is the author of Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter. Sominandrsquo;s work has appeared in numerous academic and popular publications, including the Yale Law Journal, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He writes regularly for the popular Volokh Conspiracy blog, affiliated with the Washington Post.