Is Your Home at Risk? Eminent Domain Law
“The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in dissent of the Kelo v. New London Supreme Court ruling
While Susette Kelo lost her battle to stay on her own land, Kelo v. New London continues to reverberate across the country. Across all forms of media, from national news programs to weblogs to local newspapers, eminent domain has emerged as a hot topic in nearly every state in the country. In addition to genuine outrage over the ruling and empathy for the property owners in New London, at least part of the response probably stems from psychological proximity. People wonder, could their homes be taken in the name of eminent domain?
If your town needs to widen a highway or build a school, the answer is yes. But many legal experts say the future of eminent domain law lies in the hands of state and local officials. Subsequent changes likely will occur in state legislatures rather than in courtrooms, as suggested by this year’s flurry of state legislative activity, most of which sought to limit eminent domain use in the wake of the Kelo case, what pundits are calling “the Kelo backlash.”
In July 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of property owners against the city of Norwood, which wanted to replace a neighborhood filled with middle-class homes with a private developer’s complex of shops, offices, parking, and high-end condos and apartments.
Timothy Burke, who argued the case for the city, acknowledged the impact of Susette Kelo’s fight to stay in her home on the court’s decision. “If there hadn’t been a Kelo case,” he said, “we wouldn’t have had this outcome.”