Friday, June 24, 2005

(In)Justice Comes Home

"Eminent domain" is a term that has been haunting Pittsburgh for almost as many years as Tom Murphy has been mayor. It refers to the seizing of private property by a government entity, ostensibly for the public good. Tom Murphy has used eminent domain in the past, and has threatened to use it again and again.

He may get to have some fun with it in his last few months as mayor, following yesterday's outrageous Supreme Court ruling in favor of eminent domain. Any victory for eminent domain is a defeat for property rights, and for freedom in general. Essentially, no one's property is safe.

The Tribune-Review has an excellent article on the court's ruling and its impact on Pittsburgh in particular. Pay attention to this excerpt:

Writing for the court's majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote.

Stevens was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing -- David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. The bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used eminent domain for urban renewal projects that benefit the lower and middle class.

They were joined by Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy in rejecting the conservative principle of individual property rights. Critics had feared that would allow a small group of homeowners to stymie rebuilding efforts that benefit the city through added jobs and more tax revenue for social programs.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best. What about private citizens? And if urban renewal projects "benefit the lower and middle class", doesn't somebody have to forfeit something? Yes -- those terrifying homeowners whom critics are in fear of.

Some time ago I heard a lawyer explain what the term "real estate" means. "Real" does not refer to tangible, immovable property. "Real" comes from the French word for "royal". "Real estate" essentially means "property of the crown". Five of nine justices have just gone on record as supporting that concept.

Remember the names of those five justices. Those are the ones who need to go, soon, and be replaced by constitutional conservative justices that the left lives in abject fear of.

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