Institute for Justice Legal Expert Testifies Before New Mexico Eminent Domain Task Forced

Offers White Paper on Principles for Effective Reform

CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
(703) 682-9320
August 11, 2006

Albuquerque, NM—Today, at the second New Mexico Eminent Domain Task Force meeting to examine the issue of eminent domain abuse, Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter (IJ-AZ) Staff Attorney Jennifer Perkins will discuss New Mexico law and suggest model legislation that will offer true property rights protection.  In addition, she will share her newly published white paper, “Eminent Domain In New Mexico: Principles For Effective Reform.”  

“Unfortunately, the door is open for eminent domain abuse in New Mexico,” said Perkins.  “The Task Force has an excellent opportunity to secure economic growth while protecting homes and small businesses from the government’s wrecking ball.”

The Task Force—which consists of 22 members—includes several planners and government officials.  It is expected to meet six times prior to submitting recommendations to Governor Richardson by October 23.

“New Mexicans may have a false sense of security,” said William Maurer, executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter.  Maurer, who previously testified before the New Mexico Legislature on eminent domain reform, added, “Tax-hungry government officials have teamed up with land-hungry private developers to seize homes in New Mexico.  Though this abuse of private property hasn’t been as rampant as elsewhere, it’s still allowed under current New Mexico law.”

Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that local governments could condemn private property and transfer it to other private entities in order to promote economic development.  In the wake of the notorious decision, legislatures in 45 states have considered reforms to curb the abuse of eminent domain for private development, and 29 have already adopted stronger property rights protection. 

In February, New Mexico’s Legislature overwhelmingly passed House Bill 746, a moderate proposal to slightly strengthen property protection.  In a surprise move, Governor Richardson vetoed it, becoming the first governor in the country to fail to sign post-Kelo legislation offering protection from the abuse of eminent domain. The Governor instead called for a Task Force to examine the issue and make proposals for the next legislative session.

In a ten-page paper, “Eminent Domain In New Mexico: Principles For Effective Reform,” Perkins clearly details what happened with the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision and how New Mexico can avoid the kind of abuse Kelo permits.  The report explains the following:

  • The U.S. and New Mexico Constitutions provide protections for home and small business owners, but the courts have failed to recognize them
  • How eminent domain abuse can occur now in New Mexico
  • Blight is anything the government says it is
  • New Mexico law allows the government to take more land than it needs for legitimate public uses
  • New Mexico law permits the government to declare a “public use”
  • Principles for effective reform

Legislators and journalists may obtain the report online:

Perkins’ model legislation is also available:

The Institute for Justice is a public interest law firm committed to defending property rights nationwide.  On July 26 this year, IJ won a resounding victory when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously in City of Norwood v. Horney that economic development is not a good enough reason to seize private property. 

IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner, who argued Norwood, added, “Taking people’s homes and businesses for private development is wrong and states across the country have been acknowledging this by passing legislation that offers greater protection for home and business owners.  New Mexico should join the nationwide movement to rein in this abuse.”

Perkins agreed and concluded, “We’re optimistic that the Task Force will submit a proposal to the Legislature to protect all homes and businesses in New Mexico from being bulldozed for private profit.”