Can the Government Force You Out of Your House? | Kelo v. New London
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Can the Government Force You Out of Your House? | Kelo v. New London

August 23, 2019

Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs New London, Connecticut
1997 Susette Kelo drives by a run down house along the Thames (Tames) River that has been for sale for awhile. Even though the house is run down, she falls in love with it and buys it. She spends months completely renovating the 107-year old Victorian-style cottage, painting it pink. The house had a great view of the water, and was in a working-class neighborhood called Fort Trumbull. Unfortunately, the neighborhood had been in decline for years, as there were few decent paying jobs nearby. But Susette didn’t care. She loved her little pink house and its view of the harbor. She soon met a dude named Tim LeBlanc, who helped her do exterior work on the house. Eventually the two would get married and live there together. But then, in January 1998, real estate agents began knocking on her door, offering lots of money to buy her house on behalf of “an unnamed buyer.” Kelo was suspicious, and turned down all offers. However, agents began to tell her if she didn’t sell her house, she would be forced out of her home by the city due to something called “eminent domain.” Eminent domain, you say? What the heck is that? Eminent domain is the right for a government to just take private property for public use. In other words, if the government thinks it is in the best interest of all its citizens, it can kick you out of your house. Both the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution say the government can use eminent domain, but it just requires “just compensation.” For more about eminent domain, be sure to check out my friend Dave’s video dedicated to the topic over on his channel City Beautiful. Hey Dave! Dave: Yeah? Mr. Beat: So, it’s a weird coincidence that we both decided to cover this topic at the same time. Am I right? hahaha Dave: No, it’s not. We planned to do it this way. Mr. Beat: We did? Why would we do that? Dave: You know, to cross-promote our channels. Mr. Beat: Why would you want to promote my horrible channel? Anyway, Susette Kelo didn’t care how much money New London was offering her. She loved her little pink house, and wasn’t going anywhere. Neither were 14 other Fort Trumbull residents. They decided to fight. Wait a second, why was New London trying to kick them out? Well Pfizer, a multinational pharmaceutical corporation, was opening a new facility in New London, right next to the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. Part of the deal were plans to “fix up” Fort Trumbull, including building a new hotel, conference center, and fancy housing for the scientists working at Pfizer. This would require major government help. $73 million in help. Yep, the state of Connecticut would pitch in $73 million to kick out the Fort Trumbull residents, demolish their homes, and update the area with new roads and utilities. Once Kelo and the other Fort Trumbull residents who didn’t want to leave their homes found out about this, they sued the city. Meanwhile, an organization called the New London Development Corporation, or NLDC, was already demolishing homes. By the time of the trial, which went to the New London Superior Court in July 2001, the NLDC already had acquired around 80 buildings and destroyed most of them. Pfizer had also already built their facility. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning nonprofit law firm, agreed to represent Kelo and the others. Scott Bullock, the lead lawyer for them, later said: “We got involved because what was going on was an outrageous abuse of power. There was so little respect shown for these people. The city wanted to take an entire neighborhood and make it anew.” Bullock argued that eminent domain didn’t apply in this case, since ultimately the purpose was profits for private developers. In other words, New London taking over Fort Trumbull didn’t qualify as something that would benefit the entire community. In March 2002, the New London Superior Court basically said some could stay but others had to go. Both sides were not happy, so both sides appealed. In late 2002, Kelo’s husband, Tim LeBlanc, was in a horrible car accident and went into a coma for two weeks. Now there were two fights for Kelo. While he was still in the hospital, the Connecticut Supreme Court began hearing the appeal. While things were looking up for LeBlanc as he slowly recovered, things were looking down for staying in the little pink house because in March 2004, the Connecticut Supreme Court said New London’s use of eminent domain was ok. Kelo and the others appealed again to the Supreme Court, who agreed to hear the case on September 28, 2004. It was rare for the Court to take on an eminent domain case, by the way. Kelo and LeBlanc, as well as many of the other neighbors, were present at oral arguments in February 2005. By this time, Kelo had become well known to the country, and a sort of symbol of the fight against unjust eminent domain. It seemed like everyone was on her side. However, the Court was not. On June 23rd, they announced they had sided with New London. It was a close one. 5-4. Justice John Paul Stevens argued that eminent domain in this case had a “public purpose” because it meant creating jobs in a city that had high unemployment. “Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government.” The dissent argued that this use of eminent domain was basically Robin Hood in reverse- taking from the poor to give to the rich. In her dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor argued the decision got rid of “any distinction between private and public use of property – and thereby effectively delete(d) the words ‘for public use’ from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.” This was a controversial decision, to say the least. It made people mad on both sides of the political spectrum. In one poll, 99% of respondents disagreed with the decision. On the one-year anniversary of the decision, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that told the federal government to limit its use of eminent domain. Although Kelo and the others kept fighting for awhile, eventually they all settled with New London for reportedly lots of money. Kelo’s house wasn’t demolished after all. In fact, you can visit it today. In 2008, Kelo sold the house for $1 to a dude named Avner Gregory, who moved the house across town. Today it’s a museum. Kelo moved to a different town. Around that time, the economy was crap since it was The Great Recession, and Pfizer had shut down its New London facility. So ironically, by the time New London had finally cleared the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, it no longer had plans to redevelop it. For the past 10 years, the former neighborhood has been abandoned, home to feral cats. So uh…yeah…they were kicked out for nothing. However, Kelo v. New London had a big impact. It led to a huge nationwide backlash against eminent domain. It caused 45 of the 50 states to change their eminent domain laws, and today the fight continues. In 2017, a film called Little Pink House further raised awareness of the case. And I’d argue that Susette Kelo may have lost the battle, but she certainly didn’t lose the war. She remains a hero to many Americans in the fight against unjust eminent domain. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! So what do YOU think? Do you agree with the Court? What do YOU think about eminent domain? Let me know in the comments below. Also, there’s this book that I used for research for this video called Little Pink House, A True Story of Defiance and Courage, by Jeff Benedict. This is the book the movie I was telling you about was based off of. If you want to buy this book, I put a link to it in the description of this video. And don’t forget, this video is a collaboration with my friend Dave and his channel City Beautiful. Check out his video about the impact of eminent domain. And now it’s time for my monthly shout out to my Patreon supporters especially my Patreon supporter Eric B. Wolman. And all these patrons, are at least at the Grover Cleveland level or higher which means they donate at least $15 or more a month. So I’ve got Austin Rudolph, Elcaspar Flabby, JoJo’s Dogtail Matt Standish, Nick Everett Pillerstiller Bahn Ruthington Sean Conant, Andrew Schneider John Johnson, Kenneth President Storm, and Zackary F. Parker one of my newer ones. Thank you so much guys. And thank YOU for watching, yo.

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  1. Standard vote split, all the ideological judges who favour bigger government voted for the measure for bigger government, all the more limited government, constitutionally minded judges voted against. Just another highlight that the courts don't care too much about the "law" and are just another political/ideological venue.

  2. Third, here. I'll be watching this Mr. Beat video before going to my lackluster job, the type of which I should be well beyond at this point in my life but am not due to a long, and, in retrospect, somewhat obvious series of missteps. In the end, I have no one to blame but myse…

  3. Does the Court make any sense in this case?
    Also, be sure to check out City Beautiful's video about eminent domain:


    Did you spot the cowlick?

  4. All that effort for the demolition of an entire neighborhood, only for economists to panic and cause funding for the project to dry up. No wonder it's one that unites the left and right. What's valuable to an individual or a family, is a potential obstacle for development to a business. Kind of reminds me of the back and forth rhetoric over the saga of the potential expansion of London's Heathrow Airport.

    The airport has for years wanted to build a third runway and build yet more terminals. However, because of it being surrounded on all sides by people's homes and major infrastructure, like the M25 motorway, the airport can't expand without upsetting somebody. The current plans would call for the destruction of an entire village, Harmondsworth, to build the new third runway. There's a sharp split between those who are concerned about the impact of the increased number of flights affecting the local community (even now a plane takes off or lands at Heathrow every 90 seconds) with regards to noise and also the fact that if it was built, the airport would be the single biggest polluter in the entire United Kingdom, and those who want Heathrow to remain a hub airport used as much for people changing from one flight to another as for starting and finishing journeys there

  5. Eminent domain and its use for a pharmaceutical company, of all justifications, has made me just a little more libertarian.

  6. Why am I not surprised all the liberal justices voted that taking private property for corporate interests was okay….

  7. When I saw both pop up at the same time I figured you and City Beautiful had a collaboration! Hooray! As someone who focused specifically on urban history he's another big favorite

  8. Thanks again, Mr. Beat, for the "heads up" about the City Beautiful channel. Will subscribe there. I think I've subscribed to maybe 10 channels all because you featured them on your channel. Keep up the cross-promotions with other channels. Thank you again, Mr. Beat!

  9. Wow, a woman who took on corporate companies, and lost the battle but not the war. Amazing how people can take on corporate companies and win. But the way, Mr. Beat, your channel does not suck.

  10. In want to cuss and use profanity but I actually look up to you and you probably would not like (or tolerate !) that. Donald Trump tried to demolish some ladies house to build a parking lot for one of his casinos (at a quarter of the market value at that time the 1990's). To build a wall at the South Border of Continental USA it would decades in court to enforce or better yet bully those same eminent domain laws.

  11. There is probably no Supreme Court case more misrepresented than "Kelo v New Haven." This was a case in which the usual expected outlooks of the liberal and conservative jurists of the Supreme Court were reversed.

    To put it in a nutshell, the majority (liberal) opinion of the Supreme Court ruled that – in the absence of legislation defining the limits of eminent domain – the power of eminent domain is close to absolute. The majority opinion alluded that the motivations for New Haven to exercise eminent domain in this instance fairly much stunk, but Connecticut law did not restrain the city. Indeed, in the final paragraph of the "Kelo" opinion, the majority called upon state legislatures to clearly define eminent domain and give guidelines on it's exercise by state and local governments. Somewhat surprisingly, most state legislatures did this within a year of the "Kelo" ruling.

    In their minority opinion, the conservative jurists actually tried to legislate eminent domain themselves. The minority opinion gave a laundry-list of guidelines on how and when eminent domain may be exercised. An illustration that conservative jurists, when they want to, can be just as "activist" as what they often accuse more liberal jurists.

  12. I understand the need eminent domain for public use, building public schools or public hospitals…but for eminent domain to be used as past to what amounts to a subsidy for a private business, that's corruption.

  13. When you get the time watch a cult classic aussie movie called "the castle" its based on this premise. My aussie mates here will back me up

  14. Change comes through the barrel on a gun…And ya damn well better understand the meaning of tyrannical governments..Or—go along with the controllers of this world and accept Agenda 21 !

  15. watching these videos of the supreme court briefs I finally came to the understanding that the U.S supreme court is an inherently corrupt institution.
    the Latin Phrase "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" describe it best, there is no one checking the political biases and vested interests behind the supreme court rulings.

  16. Don't forget to watch Frank Capra's 1938 Academy Award for Best Picture masterpiece "You Can't Take it With You". Hit's the nail on the head.

  17. Eminent Domain has good usages as well as bad. It can save lives and entire cities. Land isn't taken it's purchased at a fair price. I've had family members contest what that price is when easements were procured but they were paid. That said it seems that a good portion of our nation wants to side with wealthy and powerful corporate powers over individuals. Remember not only is there legal there is also political and public relations recourse. I lived in a medium size city where one small dairy farm prevented an industrial park from going inside the city as the farmer got lots of press coverage and had a good emotional story. The park was located outside of the city and thousands of dollars of tax revenues were lost. At the same time the hospital wanted to expand and had over the years purchased all of the homes in an adjacent neighborhood. Only one person held out delaying the building of the surgery center for an additional 10 years, when the owner eventually passed away. Was the delay worth it? How many people had to go to another town to have surgery and maybe dying because of that? Tough to say? Even as a leaning left liberal, I would generally defend the idea of Eminent Domain.

  18. This case is interesting for how the different judicial philosophies intertwine. Both sides can and do use the Constitution to achieve their personal goals. (PS: I said philosophies, not politics. This is a significant difference.) There are political Judges, but philosophies are much more important. Ginsberg and Thomas represent the difference between both philosophies in my opinion. Roberts and Kagan are significantly more political.

  19. please keep cross promoting.. i watch both your channels a lot and this makes it soooooo much easier. great video btw. <3

  20. Is it impossible to have a city/town called London without a river Thames!?

    There is London, England (obviously). Then there is London, Ontario, which also has a Thames. Now I learn of New London, Connecticut that also has a Thames!

    This is getting out of hand

  21. this is about the Amazon rainforest, not the video so please listen, if we the people want change we need to be aggressive on our politicians ,and vote for those who care about our only home,we need to also fight companies that are killing the planet ,we can do our part but they can do so much more.

  22. they is a 1997 Australia film called "the Castle". is about a working-class family who lives next to Melbourne airport. When the airport wants to put in a mail centre and plan to knot down the family home to it. The family go through the count to keed the home and the poolroom.

  23. You gotta explicitly mention that the right-leaning judges were the ones who sided with Kelo! Left-learning judges voted for eminent domain!

  24. I almost always side with the liberal justices like RBG and John Paul Stevens, but I have to say, they got it wrong this time. In my opinion, eminent domain can be justified, but its use should try to be as limited as possible, as taking unwilling homeowners’ land isn’t great, especially when you consider that land is always unique. Unless it’s something really important, I don’t think you should use eminent domain, and giving pfeiser a new location isn’t incredibly important.

  25. Amazon wall Mart can now take your land home to increase tax revenue .Soviet Union ?
    Was NOT a public project …

  26. I've got to side with the dissent on this one. Kicking people out of their houses to make accommodation for a private company's staff does not fit my definition of "public use". Then low and behold the company abandons the project! Not right.

    What is right are city beautiful and Mr beat working together. Very right indeed.

  27. I've been directly involved in eminent domain abuse by the government as a resident of Atlantic City. It's hard to fathom supporters of this kind of government overreach. It violates the sanctity of private property which was key in the development of this Country, usually victimizes the 'little guy' in favor of large corporations, and often fails to deliver on the promises it makes.

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