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Angry Lawmakers to Counter Controversial US Court Ruling

  • Deborah Tate

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives local governments the power to seize Americans' homes for commercial development has infuriated many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. A Senate panel is considering the ruling and possible legislation to counter it.

At issue is a decision handed down in June by a sharply divided Supreme Court that said local governments can seize and bulldoze people's property to create shopping malls or other private development to generate tax revenue.

The ruling drew a sharp dissent from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who said it favored rich corporations.

U.S. lawmakers are also angry with the ruling.

"Private property is a bedrock of who we are. It is part of our freedom in this country, and these rights should be just as important to us as any other rights," said Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The case originated in New London, Connecticut, where city officials seized a group of older homes along the waterfront to allow a private developer to build offices, a hotel, and convention center in an effort to improve the local economy.

Susette Kelo, the plaintiff in the case, testified before the Judiciary Committee:

"So why did the city and the New London Development Corporation want to kick us out? To make way for the luxury hotel, upscale condos and other private developments that could bring in more taxes to the city and possibly create more jobs," she said. "The poor and middle class had to make way for the rich and the politically connected."

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Congress should respond with legislation.

"Mrs. Kelo, I am probably one of millions of Americans who are distressed," he said. "We learned your story. We are concerned about what happened to you. I want to work with others in this committee to fashion some solution, some better, fair and more sensible ways for local governments to use and not misuse the significant powers they have over property owners."

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