Chambliss, Frist Disappointed With Eminent Domain Ruling

Friday, June 24, 2005

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss today issued the following statement relative to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that local governments may take people's homes and businesses and turn them over to private developers.

“I am deeply disturbed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London,” said Sen. Chambliss. In Kelo, the Court decided yesterday by a 5-4 margin that a local government can seize a person’s home and turn it over to another private party for redevelopment.

"The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for taking of private property by the government, but only with “just compensation” and only for “public use.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned that “all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner” so long as the new owner uses the property within the guidelines outlined by the government.

“This shouldn’t happen in America,” continued Sen. Chambliss. “The Kelo case is a troublesome expansion of the power of local governments to confiscate private property. This case appears to allow seizure of homes owned by lower- and middle-income people to benefit the wealthy and powerful. Congress needs to take a look at what we need to do to restore the protections of the Fifth Amendment to property owners in our country.”

Sen. Bill Frist released these comments regarding the ruling:

“As you may have heard the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday that has raised great concern among private property owners across America. Understandably so.

”In this case, known as Kelo vs. New London, the Court held that local governments can seize private property and give it to private developers -- if it is determined that those development projects also serve a public purpose.

”The concern here -- as voiced by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in her dissent -- is that "under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner." Indeed, I share that concern.

”The U.S. Constitution, as provided under the Fifth Amendment, gives government the right to take private property for public use after paying the property owner just compensation (eminent domain). And, make no mistake, without this power it would be very difficult to build the roads, schools, and parks we all need and use.

”Yet there are many important questions that we need to consider. How can we be sure that a public purpose is served, when government transfers property from one private owner to another? Does this decision give governments too much power over private property owners? What assurances do Americans have, those who work so hard to buy their own homes, that government will not take those homes away? Will this decision give undue advantages to politically connected developers and wealthy individuals?

“Private property has long been a cornerstone of the Constitution and our American society. Indeed, our economy is based on the principle of private ownership of property.

”It was John Adams who said ‘Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.’

”Any infringement on that right cannot be undertaken lightly. We should give careful consideration to these questions and explore the practical implications of this decision.”

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