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Attorneys Draft Constitutional Language to Protect
California Homeowners from Eminent Domain: Calif.
Legislators Propose One of the Strongest Bans on
Eminent Domain Abuse in the Nation
Sacramento,CA; July 15, 2005: Constitutional language drafted by Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys to protect California homeowners against eminent domain was introduced yesterday by California State Senator Tom McClintock and a bipartisan coalition of California legislators in a proposed new amendment to the California Constitution.
The proposed amendment comes in the wake of the United States Supreme Court disastrous decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, which allows government to seize the property of ordinary citizens to sell to private parties and corporations.
PLF attorney Timothy Sandefur joined state legislators at a press conference announcing SCA 15, introduced in the Senate by Senator McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) and Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter) with 45 co-authors – more than a third of the state legislature. The measure will be carried in the Assembly by Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa (R-Chico). The legislation would amend the state constitution to prohibit the use of eminent domain for private use under any circumstances.
“Eminent domain is a nationwide epidemic,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur. “The most basic of our private property rights are in danger. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, only our state constitutions can protect us from having our land taken away and given to private groups with more political influence.”
“The amendment would be one of the strongest bans on eminent domain abuse in the nation,” Sandefur said. “PLF attorneys stand ready to help lawmakers nationwide to craft language to protect against eminent domain abuse.”
Mr. Sandefur and PLF submitted a friend of the court brief to the Supreme Court in the Kelo case on behalf of several victims of eminent domain from across the country. Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys are currently assisting property owners in litigation in California, Ohio, Texas, and Florida to fight off the abusive use of eminent domain powers.
Last month’s Supreme Court ruling has sparked public outrage nationwide. Although the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits private property from being “taken for public use without just compensation,” the Kelo decision effectively erased the “public use” part, allowing New London, Connecticut, to confiscate homes so private developers can put up shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants.
“The Court said that public use means the same as public benefit,” explained Sandefur. “That means bureaucrats can take your home and sell it to another private party, including private corporations, whenever they claim it would benefit the public in some way,” added Sandefur.
The decision will surely open the floodgates for eminent domain abuse as local government officials, hungry for higher-tax bases – and looking to please high-dollar political contributors – feel free to define “public use” as creatively as they like. Californians in low-income neighborhoods are most at risk from aggressive eminent domain abuse that takes from the poor and gives to the prosperous.
The Supreme Court did make it clear in the Kelo decision, however, that states still have the power to limit eminent domain abuse.
The proposed amendment to the California Constitution would require that the government either own the property it seizes through eminent domain, or guarantee the public the legal right to use the property. In other words, government could take private property only for governmental purposes – such as highways, schools, or government offices – where government is owner and operator. In addition, the amendment will require that the property be restored to the original owner if the government ceases to use it for the stated public use.
“The Supreme Court’s Kelo decision defaced the Fifth Amendment, but it also has been a signal to property owners in California and across the country who have a new determination to protect their land from government’s grasp,” Sandefur said. “Ironically, the Supreme’s Court’s decision could end up being a boon for property rights protection, if California and other states enact eminent domain protections.”
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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