Eminent Domain: Is Winning Losing?

The backlash against the Supreme Court's affirmation of eminent domain has grown so intense that a key state redevelopment official now says "we would ...
by | December 27, 2005

The backlash against the Supreme Court's affirmation of eminent domain has grown so intense that a key state redevelopment official now says "we would have been better off if we had lost."

John Shirey, the head of the California Redevelopment Association, tells the Planning Report that "none of us were prepared for the adverse public reaction that followed" the Court's controversial Kelo v. New London decision.

As Josh Goodman reports in the upcoming issue of Governing, Alabama, Delaware, Ohio and Texas have already responded to Kelo by passing restrictions on eminent domain. As many as 20 more legislatures will debate similar measures in 2006.

California is one of them. As Shirey sees it, state lawmakers may limit eminent domain even more than the Supreme Court would have had they broken the other way on Kelo. The court case was narrowly focused on the issue of using eminent domain for economic development. That's already already restricted in many ways in California, Shirey says.

By winning in the Supreme Court, however, state and local governments lost in the court of public opinion. Had the Justices ruled the other way, Shirey says:

"That decision would have been written up in newspapers and broadcast on TV news shows as a loss for New London and a victory for the opponents of eminent domain, but such a narrow decision would not have affected us in California. As a result, there wouldn't have been the adverse public reaction and, consequently, we wouldn't be seeing all of these proposals in the United States Congress and the California Legislature to overturn the use of eminent domain."

MORE FROM 13TH FLOOR: Kelo's Defenders