PLF asks Louisiana Supreme Court to enforce constitutional limits on the exercise of eminent domain
The government’s authority to take private property without the owner’s consent is a terrible and awesome power. Aware of this, the nation’s founders placed two key restrictions on its exercise: that government shall not take property unless it is for a valid public use and just compensation is paid.
But those limits are only as protective as the courts are willing to meaningfully enforce them. Take, for example, the public use requirement. That restriction is supposed to police against powerful private interests using the government’s power to circumvent the private market to take private property for their own private uses. But often, courts allow private parties to direct or influence eminent domain decisions in the name of economic development. The best example of such abuse is the recent decision Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), in which the United States Supreme Court held that the city could lawfully condemn 115 privately-owned properties and homes in the hopes that private interests would redevelop the neighborhood into an office park with hotels and restaurants, resulting in more property taxes and jobs for the community.
Hoping to avoid another Kelo, PLF filed an amicus brief asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to enforce the public use restriction in the case, St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC. There, an appellate court upheld the port district’s decision to condemn Violet Dock Port’s property and on-going business in order to hand it over to a competitor business—in the name of economic development. However, PLF’s brief argues that the economic development rationale is frequently used to circumvent the constitutional prohibition against private takings.
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St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port, Inc., LLC
The St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District condemned Violet Dock Port’s property in order to hand it over to a competitor’s business—merely because the district believed that the competitor could operate the dock better and charge more favorable rates. A Louisiana appellate court upheld the condemnation as a valid “public use” because the government said it would help the area’s economic development. In January 2018, the state supreme court delivered a mixed decision and denied a rehearing. Violet Dock Port has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. PLF argues in a supporting brief that the economic development rationale is commonly used to circumvent the Constitution’s prohibition against private takings.Read more