Attention San Pablo Residents

The city of San Pablo is considering renewing its eminent domain authority for another 12 years. This would allow the city to seize perfectly fine homes and businesses for private development, as municipalities across California do on a regular basis. It is critical that property owners and activists organize before the next hearing on this proposal, on April 5.

If you live in the city of San Pablo, please contact Christina Walsh, the Institute for Justice’s Director of Activism and Coalitions, at or (703) 682-9320.

Read: “San Pablo residents fuming over eminent domain proposal.”

Also check out California Scheming and our Eminent Domain Abuse Survival Guide.

Protest Ratner This Thursday

The seizures for Bruce Ratner have been approved. Please help Develop Don’t Destroy – Brooklyn protest the groundbreaking of Atlantic Yards this Thursday. From DDDB:

March 11: Two Groundbreakings to Protest Ratner’s Boondoggle Ceremony

Thursday March 11 at 12:30pm
DDDB Joins Bloomberg, Markowitz, Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson, Schumer, Cuomo, Prokhorov and Ratner’s Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn
Featuring Markowitz’s Proclamation Marking the Events of the Day

Exact location (in the project footprint, probably in front of Freddy’s Bar on Dean and 6th) yet to be determined…stay tuned.

Thursday, March 11. Reportedly 1:30pm
Join us to Protest the Barclays/Ratner Boondoggle Ceremonial Groundbreaking
Exact location (in the project footprint) yet to be determined…stay tuned.

Protest Ratner This Thursday

The seizures for Bruce Ratner have been approved.  Please help Develop Don’t Destroy – Brooklyn protest the groundbreaking of Atlantic Yards this Thursday.  From DDDB:

March 11: Two Groundbreakings to Protest Ratner’s Boondoggle Ceremony

Thursday March 11 at 12:30pm
DDDB Joins Bloomberg, Markowitz, Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson, Schumer, Cuomo, Prokhorov and Ratner’s Groundbreaking to Bury the Soul of Brooklyn
Featuring Markowitz’s Proclamation Marking the Events of the Day

Exact location (in the project footprint, probably in front of Freddy’s Bar on Dean and 6th) yet to be determined…stay tuned.

Thursday, March 11. Reportedly 1:30pm
Join us to Protest the Barclays/Ratner Boondoggle Ceremonial Groundbreaking
Exact location (in the project footprint) yet to be determined…stay tuned.

Attention Washington State

Help us stop eminent domain abuse! Thursday, January 14, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna will host a press conference at the State Capitol to release the findings of a task force study on the use and abuse of eminent domain, and will call for reform of the state’s Community Renewal Law – a law that has already been aimed at Southeast Seattle, Renton, Auburn, and other communities. It is critical that property owners attend and show their support for eminent domain reform.

Here are the details:

on Eminent Domain Abuse in Washington State
Thursday, January 14, 2010 @ 10am
Senate Rules Room, State Capitol
In the Legislative Building on the Capitol Campus in Olympia
The Senate Rules Room is located inside the entrance to the Lt. Governor’s Office.
Click here for directions.

The Institute for Justice has chartered a bus from Seattle to Olympia and back. The bus will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Boxed lunches will be provided. The bus will load at Columbia Plaza on S. Edmunds Street (just off Rainier Avenue South in Seattle). The bus will depart promptly at 8am on January 14. To reserve a spot on the bus, please contact Yvonne Maletic at (206) 341-9300 or by Tuesday, January 12.

  1. E-mail this page to your friends and family. Encourage them to attend the hearing.
  2. Download a copy of our flyer here and distribute it in your neighborhood.
  3. Follow us on Twitter for updates on our efforts to stop eminent domain abuse in Washington and nationwide: @ChristinaWalsh.

Questions? Contact Christina Walsh at or (703) 682-9320.

You're Invited!

Join the Institute for Justice and the Moving Picture Institute for a private preview screening of Battle of Brooklyn.

December 10, 2009 at 7 P.M.
Cantor Center at New York University
36 East 8th Street
New York, New York 10003
Doors Open at 6:45 P.M.
Followed by panel discussion on eminent domain in New York City.

Daniel Goldstein’s condo sits at center court of developer Bruce Ratner’s proposed basketball arena in Brooklyn.

Battle of Brooklyn follows Daniel’s six-year-long David vs. Goliath fight to save his home and community from being seized through eminent domain for Ratner’s massive Atlantic Yards project.

The screening–a sneak peak at the first portion of the film–will be followed by a panel discussion about the use and abuse of eminent domain in New York, featuring:

Mindy Fullilove, PhD, professor at Columbia University and author of Root Shock
William Stern, former CEO of New York State’s Urban Development Corp.
Daniel Goldstein, lead plaintiff, Goldstein v. Empire State Development Corp.
Michael Galinsky, producer, Battle of Brooklyn
Norman Siegel, civil rights attorney
Robert McNamara, attorney, Institute for Justice

The Moving Picture Institute is raising funds for the post production of Battle of Brooklyn. Tax-deductible donations will be accepted following the screening, or can be made at For more information on contributing to the project, please call Rob Pfaltzgraff at (610) 724-4212.

Please RSVP by Monday, December 7, by contacting Lancee Kurcab at (703) 682-9320 or

The End of an Eminent Domain Error: Pfizer to Close in New London

Land Taken in Infamous Kelo Supreme Court Case Remains Empty More Than Four Years After Ruling


Arlington, Va.—Pfizer, Inc., announced today that the company will be closing its former research and development headquarters in New London, Conn. This was a project that involved massive corporate welfare and led to the abuse of eminent domain that ultimately bulldozed the home of Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London.

This was the same bogus development plan that five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court refused to question when the property owners of New London pleaded to have their homes spared from the wrecking ball. Justices mentioned that there was a plan in place, and that so long as lawmakers who are looking to use eminent domain for someone’s private gain had a plan, the courts would wash their hands. Now, more than four years after the redevelopment scheme passed constitutional muster—allowing government to take land from one private owner only to hand that land over to another private party who happens to have more political influence—the plant that had been the magnet for the development is closing its doors and the very land where Susette Kelo’s home once stood remains barren to all but feral cats, seagulls and weeds.

Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case for the Institute for Justice on behalf of the New London homeowners, said, “Today’s announcement that Pfizer is closing its research facility in New London demonstrates the folly of government plans that involve massive corporate welfare and that abuse eminent domain for private development. The majority opinion in Kelo v. New London described the Fort Trumbull project as a ‘carefully considered’ plan, but it has been an unmitigated disaster from start—and now—to finish.”

Bullock continued, “Project supporters blame the economic downturn for this turn of events. That is all the more reason why taxpayer dollars should not be put at risk in speculative and risky development schemes.”

Despite the Court’s Kelo ruling, much change for the good has occurred.

Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice and co-counsel in the Kelo case, said, “In the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo ruling, 43 states have now reformed their laws to better protect property owners. What’s more, seven state high courts have stepped in post-Kelo to protect the rights of homeowners against eminent domain abuse. The high courts of Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Missouri, New Jersey and Rhode Island have all ruled in favor of property owners and against eminent domain for private gain. None has made Kelo the rule under their own state constitutions.”

The tragic saga of the Kelo case is detailed in Jeff Benedict’s book Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage (Grand Central Publishing; 2009). In it, Benedict shares with readers how Kelo took on the City of New London, a cast of politically powerful villains and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case that sparked a revolutionary change nationwide in eminent domain laws—except in Connecticut.

Help Stop Eminent Domain Abuse in MO


North Side Harvest Festival

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Noon – 4pm

Shining Light Pentecostal Church

3054 Sheridan Avenue, St Louis, MO 63106

Residents, business owners and churches across Missouri are fighting to keep what they've worked so hard to own from being seized for wealty developers – and the North Side is gound zero.  Come join us at Shining Light Church for a free Harvest Festival, and join other members of your community, city and state for food, games and entertainment.

FREE hot dogs, apple cider, baked goods, DJ, speakers,
face painting, balloons, pumpkin patch, moon bounce,
games, pinata and prizes for the kids!

Come show your opposition to eminent domain abuse in Missouri!

Help us Save the North Side!

Questions?  Contact Romona Taylor Williams at 314-363-5229,, or Christina Walsh at 703-682-9320,

50 State Report: Synopsis


In the two years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s now-infamous decision in Kelo v. City of New London, 44 states have passed new laws aimed at curbing the abuse of eminent domain for private use.

Given that significant reform on most issues takes years to accomplish, the horrible state of most eminent domain laws, and that the defenders of eminent domain abuse—cities, developers and planners—have flexed their considerable political muscle to preserve the status quo, this is a remarkable and historic response to the most reviled Supreme Court decision of our time.

Of course, more work remains to be done, in both state legislatures and Congress, to protect homes, businesses, churches, and farms. Indeed, because some states have not passed reforms, and because many reforms are incomplete, it is important to take a step back and evaluate the work that has been done and is left to do. Some states have passed model reforms that can serve as an example for others. Some states enacted nominal reform—possibly because of haste, oversight, or compromise—and need to know what is left to fix. And finally, there are those states that have failed to act altogether, leaving home, farm, and business owners threatened by Kelo-type takings and beyond. 

Eminent domain authority carries with it tremendous responsibility. Early in our nation’s history, the U.S. Supreme Court even described it as “the despotic power.” Quite simply, it is the power to remove residents from their long-time homes and to destroy small family businesses. Thus, as the Founding Fathers understood, it is a power that must be used sparingly and only for the right reasons. This understanding is reflected in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states, “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Most states’ constitutions have identical or similar language—language that is supposed to prevent the use of eminent domain for private benefit by restricting its exercise to only true public uses, like roads, fire stations, and schools.

For most of our nation’s history, courts stayed true to the plain language and intent of the federal and state “public use” clauses, and prevented the taking of property for private benefit. However, those takings began to proliferate as public use was interpreted more broadly. The most significant expansion of the term came with the incorporation of “blight” removal as a public use. At first, blight was used as a justification to remove properties that were real threats to public health and safety (what were historically considered public nuisances, the abatement of which was always allowed pursuant to the government’s police powers). Over the past several decades, however, the definition of blight has become so expansive that tax-hungry governments now have the ability to take away perfectly fine middle- and working-class neighborhoods and give them to land-hungry private developers who promise increased tax revenue and jobs.

Open-ended blight designations provide a way for local governments to circumvent the public use requirement. The Kelo decision then obliterated the federal public use requirement by equating “public use” with “private use.” Under Kelo, local governments can condemn homes andbusinesses and transfer them to new owners as long as government officials think that the new owners will produce more money with the land. As Justice O’Connor stated in her dissenting opinion, the result is 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 Supreme Court did get one thing right in Kelo: states are free to enact legislation that restricts the power of eminent domain. True eminent domain reform should start with states narrowing their laws’ definitions of public use. State legislatures need to establish that a public use means that the government or the public at large owns, occupies, and has a definite right to use property acquired by eminent domain. The use of eminent domain to transfer private property from one party to another for “economic development” should specifically be excluded as a public use.

Ideally, state legislatures should enshrine the above definition of public use not only in their state laws, but also in their state constitutions. Eminent domain affects one of our most fundamental rights—the right to own property. Thus, protections against its abuse should be anchored in state constitutions so that they will be secure from subsequent attempts by cities, developers, and others that benefit from eminent domain abuse to weaken them.

Of course, as noted above, blight is a device that allows local governments to abuse the power of eminent domain. Thus, any reform that fails to address the issue of blight is inadequate and leaves home and business owners at significant risk of being victims of abuse. State legislatures should either eliminate the use of eminent domain for blight or redefine the term narrowly so that it refers only to individual properties that directly threaten public health and safety. Unless open-ended definitions of blight are changed, blight designations can be applied to any neighborhood—no matter how nice—that politically connected developers desire.

Also, since taking away someone’s home or livelihood is such a severe act, when the government uses eminent domain, the burden should be on it to prove a legitimate public use. Instead of giving deference to legislative determinations of public use, courts should make governments show that they are using eminent domain properly.

While other provisions—such as providing sufficient notice of takings—are helpful in reform legislation, the components of reform discussed above are the most important because they directly put the brakes on private-to-private transfers of property for private gain.

In this report card, we have evaluated the quality and strength of reforms that have passed in the states, both so that legislators can know what is left to do and so that citizens can find out if they are really protected from eminent domain abuse. In grading reforms in this report card, we have taken into account the criteria for good reform noted above, keeping in mind the basic question, “How hard is it now for the government to take a person’s home or business and give it to someone else for private gain?” The states in which it is now impossible or extremely difficult get high marks; those in which it is easy get low marks. States that failed to pass any eminent domain reform received failing grades.

50 State Report: Grades of States that Failed

States receiving an “F” for failing to pass any degree of eminent domain reform.

Idaho D+
Illinois D+
Kentucky D+
Maine D+
Nebraska D+
Alaska D
Connecticut D
Maryland D
Missouri D
Montana D
Ohio D
California D-
Rhode Island D-
Tennessee D-
Vermont D-
Arkansas F
Hawaii F
Massachusetts F
New Jersey F
New York F
Oklahoma F