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Kelo didn’t quite work out the way supporters thought it would p2

3/26/2015 | Real Estate Blog

The tenth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London is approaching. In June 2005, the court handed down a decision that had the potential to change eminent domain law across the country. A group of property law attorneys got together recently to discuss and to analyze whether Kelo had the kind of impact everyone expected — or was afraid — it would have.

In our last post, we were talking about the general distaste for the decision with both the legal community and the public. Pennsylvania is just one of the states that rolled back the law to clarify that “public use” does not mean “private development,” as Kelo ruled it could.

One of the conference attendees suggested that the case gained so much momentum because Susette Kelo, the named defendant representing homeowners in her community, is white. It helped, too, that the properties at risk were part of a picturesque waterfront neighborhood. How different would it all have been if the Kelo in the case were African American and the neighborhood were an inner city low-rent district?

In fact, this attendee had conducted a study of Philadelphia’s use of eminent domain. Blighted neighborhoods, where buildings have been abandoned, benefitted from the takings. Take over what no one wants, and no one will object. Take over what even a small group of people value, and tread lightly, she said.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Kelo’s legacy is how states reshaped the law. The restrictions adopted are not part of a uniform law. State legislatures responded in ways that addressed the way the law of eminent domain had developed within their borders.

As conference attendees noted, the Supreme Court’s decision has had an important impact, just not the impact anyone expected.

Source: The Day, “Experts agree: Luster is off eminent domain after U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Kelo,” Lee Howard, March 21, 2015