Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Government Theft, SCOTUS Approved

Back in June of 2005, we of the freedom-oriented American disposition watched in horror as our so-called "conservative" Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) essentially flushed our time-honored private property rights down the proverbial toilet, when they ruled in a now infamous 5-4 decision (Kelo vs. New London) that local governments could take your property by force for pretty much any reason they wished, which flies in the face of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution.

Now I recognize that eminent domain is necessary up to a point, as Right-of-Ways need to be obtained for roads, highways, power lines and other utility easements, along with other things intended for public use, as set fourth in the 5th Amendment. As long as the original property owner is compensated at fair market value, I have no real problem with it.

However, the Kelo decision paved the way for local governments to seize privately owned property for private use, meaning that if some developer decided he wanted part or all of your land for a shopping center, skating rink, or condo complex, they could now go to your local elected officials and have your property condemned, and then sold to the developer by force at whatever price the government decided was appropriate.

In essence, this ruling gave local governments a license to steal.

This hideous decision should have had American's fat, over-fed asses flying off the couch and hitting the streets in mass protest, but I guess there were just too many American Idol reruns to watch, as well as the latest celebrity gossip to be gleaned from Entertainment Tonight. Besides, as we all know, when it comes to government's abuse of power, well, that only happens to the other guy.

Nevertheless, being that most all politics are indeed local, there was just enough of a stink raised across America that many state legislatures moved to restrict the abilities of local governments to swipe the private property of their state's hapless citizens. Apparently that isn't going to help in the sad case of Jay and Stephanie Burkholder.

Via the Roanoke Times:

Court approves seizure of property for Carilion's Riverside Center

By Laurence Hammack | The Roanoke Times

After refusing to sell their land to make way for Carilion Clinic’s sprawling medical complex, Jay and Stephanie Burkholder will now have the 3-acre commercial tract taken from them in a forced legal sale.

Condemnation of the land by the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority does not violate Virginia’s eminent domain laws, Circuit Court Judge William Broadhurst ruled.

The decision marks the first time property has been seized for the Riverside Center, a gleaming business park and medical school being constructed where a mill and other aging industries once operated along Jefferson Street and Reserve Avenue.

After Carilion and the city announced plans for the project a decade ago, most of the businesses sold out to the development authority and were demolished to make way for the complex. But the Burkholders, who own the land where Surfaces operates a flooring business, held out.

The Burkholders refused an offer from the authority that they said was too low, then challenged the condemnation of their land in a two-year legal battle that followed.

In a decision dated Thursday, Broadhurst ruled that the redevelopment authority properly found that the area surrounding the Burkholders’ land was blighted, and thus subject to condemnation.

A jury will now be impaneled to determine a fair price for the property, which the authority will pay to the Burkholders.
Perhaps someday sanity will return to our nation's highest court, and the hideous Kelo decision will be overturned on constitutional grounds. Yet even if it is ultimately reversed, I wonder just how many of our fellow citizens will have had their property stolen and given over to a developer for yet another strip mall or movie theater in the interim.

As an aside, I know many among us are now counting on the so-called conservative SCOTUS to eventually strike down most or even all of the blatantly unconstitutional laws that have passed over the last year, and particularly those that have come about since Jan. 20, 2009.

I hope people will keep in mind that this is essentially the same court that decided government has more of a right to your property than you do.

Given that until Kelo, private property rights were considered sacrosanct by most, I wouldn't get my hopes up that they are going to enforce our Constitution anywhere else, either.

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