Property Rights on the 10th Anniversary of Kelo v. City of New London - Welcoming Remarks

June 11, 2015

In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could condemn residential properties and transfer them to a private developer for a planned office park (which never materialized). Although the Fifth Amendment permits taking private property only for “public use,” the Court held that transfers to private parties for economic development were a sufficiently public “purpose.” This unpopular ruling triggered an unprecedented political and judicial reaction, with 45 states limiting their eminent domain law. But many of these changes impose few or no genuine constraints.

In his detailed study of this controversial case — the first book-length analysis of Kelo by a legal scholar — Ilya Somin argues that the ruling was a grave error. Economic development and “blight” condemnations are unconstitutional under both originalist and “living Constitution” theories of legal interpretation. They also victimize the poor and the politically weak, and often destroy more economic value than they create.

Despite the case’s outcome, Kelo shattered what many believed to be a consensus that virtually any condemnation satisfies the Fifth Amendment. Kelo thus led to significant progress, but there is much work to be done. Please join us for a discussion of the state of property rights in America 10 years after the Supreme Court’s most notorious ruling on eminent domain.

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