Eminent Domain Takes a Hit in Town of North Hempstead


by Timothy Sandefur

The Hempstead (N.Y.) Northender has a brief report on the passage of S 7358-A, a bill which it says would prohibit cities from using eminent domain to seize private recreational facilities and transfer them to public ownership. The bill is aimed at protecting a private golf club that the government wants to seize and use as a municipal golf club. But under just about everyone's interpretation, that would be a public use.

A smaller problem with this article. It quotes State Sen. Michael Balboni as saying that eminent domain "has its roots in the feudal lords of Great Britain, who used that power to seize whatever land they wished." That's not correct. Eminent domain is not an English common law concept, but a Roman civil law concept, which is so similar to the English concept of "prerogative," that American law merged the two ideas. But not even the term "eminent domain" is to be found in the English common law.