- Professor Irina Manta, Hofstra Law
Under what circumstances can the government take your property without giving you compensation? Does it matter whether it is real property or personal property? On June 22, with an interesting alignment of justices, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Horne v. Department of Agriculture, addressing these and other questions.
On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could condemn fifteen residential properties in order to transfer them to a new private owner. Although the Fifth Amendment only permits the taking of private property for "public use," the Court ruled that the transfer of condemned land to private parties for "economic development" is permitted by the Constitution. In his new book, published by the University of Chicago Press, The Grasping Hand: "Kelo v. City of New London" and the Limits of Eminent Domain, Prof. Ilya Somin argues that the closely divided 5-4 ruling in Kelo was a grave error. Prof. Somin provides a detailed study of the case, as well as of the new laws intended to limit the use of eminent domain passed in forty-five states during the political backlash following the decision, alongside a broader history of the dispute over public use and eminent domain and an evaluation of options for reform.
With the 10th anniversary of the Kelo decision approaching, Prof. Somin joined a Teleforum program to discuss the book, with Prof. Richard Epstein joining to offer his comments.
On April 23, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Horne v. Department of Agriculture. This case presents three questions. The first is whether the government is required by the Fifth Amendment to pay just compensation when seizing personal property as it must do for real property. The second question is whether the government is exempt from paying just compensation when it seizes personal property if the owner of the property maintains a "contingent interest" in a share of the value of the property. The third question is whether the government's requirement that property owners hand over specific property in order to be permitted to put their crop on the market amounts to a taking.
To discuss the case, we have John Elwood, who is a partner in the Washington, DC office of Vinson&Elkins.