STEVENS. J: … Two polar propositions are perfectly clear. On the one hand. it has long been accepted that the sovereign may not take the property of A for the sole purpose of transferring it to another private property B. even though A is paid just compensation. On the other hand. It is equally clear that a State may transfer property from one private party to another if future “use by the public” is the purpose of the taking; the condemnation of Lind for a railroad with common-carrier duties is a familiar example. Neither of these propositions. however, determines the disposition of this case. The disposition of this case therefore turns on the question whether the City's development plan sent a “public purpose.” Without exception. our cases have defined that concept broadly, reflecting our longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments in this field. In Berman v. Parker. 348 U.S. 2611954). this Court upheld a redevelopment plan targeting a blighted area of Washington. D.C., in which most of the housing for the area's 5,000 inhabitants was beyond repair. Under the plan, the area would be condemned and part of it utilized for the construction of streets, schools. and other public facilities. The remainder of the land would be leased or sold to private parties for the purpose of
redevelopment. including the of low. cost housing. The owner of a department store located in the area challenged the condemnation, panting out that his store was not itself blighted and arguing that the creation of a 'better balanced, more attractive ),” was not a valid public we. 1Crmng for unammout Court, Justice Douglas refused to evaluate this claim in , defernng instead to the legislative and agency judgment that the area “inure be planned as a whole' for the plan to be successful. The Court explained that -community redevelopment programs need not, by force of the Coion union. a piecemeal basis—lot by lot, building by – The public use underlying the taking was ally affirmed: We do nor sit to determine whether a particular bouncy, protect is or is not desirable. The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive…. The values it represents arc spiritual as well as physical. aesthetic as well as monetary. It is the power of the to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy. spacious as well as dean. well-balanced as well as carefully paticakd. Viewed as a whole. our Jurisprudence has recognized that the needs of society have varied between different parts of the Nation. pea as they have evolved over time in response to changed circumstances. … For more than a century. public use has wisely eschewed raged formulas and intrusive scrutiny in favor of affording legislatures broad latitude in determining what public needs the use of the takings power…. The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community. including but by no means limited to new yobs and increased tat revenue…. To effectuate this plan. the City has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development…. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose. the takings challenged here satisfy the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment. To avoid this result. petitioners urge us to adopt a new bright-line rule that economic development does not qualify as a public use. Putting aside the unpersuasive suggestion that the City's plan will provide only purely economic benefits, neither precedent nor logic supports petitioner? proposal. Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted of genemment. There is, moreover, no principled way of distinguishing economic development from the other public purposes that we have rat/anted. … It would be incongruous to hold that the C interest in the economic benefits to be derived from the development has less of a public character than any of those other interests. Clearly. there is no bans for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose. Petitioners contend that using eminent domain for economic development blurs the boundary between public and private takings. Again. our cases foreclose this objection. Quite simply, the government's pursuit of a public purpose will often benefit individual private parties…. The owner of the department store in Berman objected to “taking from one businessman for the benefit of another businessman.” referring to the fact that under the redevelopment plan land would be leased or sold to private developers for redevelopment. Our ten-coon of that contention has particular relevance to the instant case: The public end may be as well or better served through an agency of private enterprise than through a department of government—or so the Congress might conclude. We cannot say that public ownership is the sole method of promoting the public purposes of community redevelopment protects…. It u further argued that without a bright-line rule nothing would stop a city from transferring citizen A's property to citizen B for the sole reason that an. zen B will put the property to a more productive use and thus pay more taxes. Such a one-to-one transfer 01 property. executed outside the confines of an integrated development plan, u not presented in this case. While such an unusual exercise of government power would certainly raise a suspicion that a private purpose was afoot, the hypothetical cases posted by pear toner can be confronted if and when they arise. They do not warrant the crafting of an artificial restriction on the concept of public use…. Just as we decline to second-guess the City's considered judgments about the efficacy of its development plan- we also decline to second-guess the City's determinations as to what lands it needs to acquire in order to effectuate the project. It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line not to sit in review on the size of a particular For a area. Once the question of the public purpose has been decided, the amount and character of land to be taken for the
project and the need for a particular tract to complete the integrated plan rests in the discretion of the legislative branch…. The lodgment of the Supreme Court of Connecticut is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
DISSENT: THO:s ILAS. I.: tong ago. William Blackstone wrote that “the law of the land … post even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable right of private property.” The Framers embodied that principle in the . allowing the government to take property not for “public necessity.' but instead for “public use.' Defying this understanding. the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a 1Plubbc /Plumose Clause, a that is satisfied. the Court instructs. so long as the purpose is legitimate' and the means “not irrational.” This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold. against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal protect whose stated purpose is a value promise of new lobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a “public use.” I cannot agree. If such “economic development” takings are for a “public use any taking is. and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution. I do not believe that this Court can eliminate liberties expressly enumerated in the Constitution. Regrettably, however, the Courts error runs deeper than this. Today's decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood. is a meaningful limn on the government's eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause's original meaning, and I would reconsider than. The Fifth Amendment provides: “No person shall…. be deprived of life, liberty, or property, with-out due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public we without pat compensation.' (Emphasis added.) In my view, it as “imperative that the Court maintain absolute fidelity to' the Clause's express limit on the power of the government over the individual. no less than with every other liberty expressly enumerated in the Fifth Amendment or the Bill of Rights more generally…. The most natural reading of the Clause is that it allows the government to take property only if the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property, as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity whatsoever. More fundamentally, Berman erred by equating the eminent domain power with the police power of States…. The question whether the State can take property using the power of eminent domain is there-fore distinct from the question whether it can regulate property pursuant to the police power…. The consequences of today's decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. So-called “urban renewal” programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to
the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful…. I would reverse the judgment of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
1. What constitutional issue did the Supreme Court take the case to answer, and what was its answer? 2. How does the majority opinion address the point that if NI.DC can take this land, the state can take any private land and pass it along to any private person?
3. In his dissent, Justice Thomas says, “Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough….” What do you think he means by this statement? Do you agree?
4. Does private property exist under our legal system for the common good? Discuss in light of the case opinions.