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InsiderOnline Blog: August 2004

Putting the "Doh" in Eminent Domain

Some good news on the public interest law front. From an Institute for Justice press release, July 31:

In a case with nationwide implications to halt the abuse of eminent domain, the Michigan Supreme Court ... reversed its infamous Poletown decision, which had allowed the condemnation of private property for so-called 'economic development.' In a unanimous decision in County of Wayne v. Hathcock ... the Court decisively rejected the notion that 'a private entity's pursuit of profit was a public use for constitutional takings purposes simply because one entity's profit maximization contributed to the health of the general economy.'

The 1981 Poletown decision allowed for an entire neighborhood (1,000 homes and 600 businesses) to be bulldozed to make way for a GM plant, which would yield more jobs and taxes. Poletown was intended to be the exception because the GM plant was to have such a huge economic impact on the community, but it became the rule in every state, encouraging businessowners and local government to simply overstate the economic impact of a project in order to get their hands on other people's property.

"The Poletown decision gave cities the green light to take property for private parties," said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. "It was a terrible mistake. Now, the Michigan Supreme Court has restored the rights of all Michiganders to keep their homes and businesses, even if another, politically connected private business wants them. This is a great day for property rights nationwide."

IJ, The Mackinac Center and the Pacific Legal Foundation all filed friend of the court briefs in the case. PLF's announcement is in our legal action section, here, Mackinac's take is here.

Posted on 08/06/04 11:19 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

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