On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to our Constitution, ruling in a 5-4 decision that Americans only have a right to keep their homes, businesses, and houses of worship until their government decides a new owner would generate more tax revenue. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor pointed out in her dissent, the majority's ruling in Kelo v. New London means that "[t]he 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."
The public's reaction to the Kelo decision was immediate and impassioned, making the case one of the most reviled Supreme Court opinions in recent history. Citizens throughout the nation demanded that their state governments act to make sure their property rights were secure. As a result, 42 states passed at least one bill in response to Kelo, although some bills (such as the eminent domain "reform" passed in my current home state of Missouri) were far less effective than others.
Regrettably, the Supreme Court marked this anniversary by announcing today that it will not consider a case that might have given them the chance to scale back some of the damage done by Kelo. Suzette Kelo, on the other hand, is helping to spearhead the continuing effort to see property rights protected in this country, and she was present for the grand reopening of the little pink house that was at the center of the controversy. It has been relocated to another part of the city, where it will stand as a monument to the struggle that she and her neighbors shared with hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens who are threatened with eminent domain. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, three years after New London won its case by persuading five justices that the displacement of these tax-paying property owners was necessary to complete the city's revitalization, the "redevelopment site" remains a wasteland.