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  • Evaluating Economic Development Takings: Legal Validity Versus Economic Viability

    Much in the same way that Renault (Actor Claude Rains) was shocked in the movie Casablanca to find out that there was gambling in that city, so were many shocked to discover that the government could take a private home in order to promote economic development. Yet this is exactly what the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London. The Kelo decision was relatively straight-forward. The Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment does not preclude the taking of private property by eminent domain and transferring it to another for the purposes of promoting economic development. In effect, the promotion of economic development was a valid public use under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court rejected pleas in this case to exclude economic development as a legitimate ground for takings under the public use doctrine, but Justice Stevens, in his majority opinion, stated that jurisdictions could impose additional restrictions on their own. Brushing aside contrary comments, both the majority opinion and commentators on Kelo argued that the decision did not plow new ground; it had been the rule for years that eminent domain could be deployed for economic development purposes.