THE BIG property rights story of 2005 was the Supreme Court's ruling, in Kelo v. New London, that the Bill of Rights doesn't prevent local governments from seizing private property by eminent domain and turning it over to private developers to generate "economic development" or higher tax revenues.
The anti-Kelo backlash was the big property rights story of 2006. The Supreme Court had left the door open to curbing eminent domain through state action, and voters in 10 states adopted measures to do just that. But elsewhere, as Kelo's critics feared, eminent-domain abuse grew worse.
Perhaps the most egregious example was in Port Chester, N.Y., where property owner Bart Didden had arranged for a
With their approval, court papers show, a rival developer approached Didden and demanded that he fork over $800,000 (or a 50 percent cut of the CVS project) -- or else the town would take his land by eminent domain.
Didden refused, and eminent-domain proceedings began the next day.
When Didden went to court in 2004 to protect his property, his complaint was dismissed. This April, the Second Circuit US Court of Appeals upheld that dismissal, saying that Kelo left him with no recourse: Port Chester could not be stopped from seizing his land, and the developer's threat was therefore not unconstitutional.
Mafia-style extortion by politically wired developers -- "Your money or your land," as Kelo's critics put it -- is now lawful. It will take another Supreme Court decision to undo this travesty.