Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Roberts on eminent domain

In the third day of confirmation hearings, John Roberts has weighed in on the eminent domain issue. Roberts chose not to condemn the recent Supreme Court decision, arguing that the matter was one for congress and the states to decide rather than the courts:

"This body and legislative bodies in the states are protectors of the people's rights," Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his confirmation hearings to be the nation's 17th chief justice.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were up in arms earlier this year when a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled on what's known as "eminent domain" in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, Conn. That ruling said cities can take over private land and homes in order to build shopping malls, convention centers or other structures to generate tax revenue. The decision drew a scathing dissent from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as favoring rich corporations, and Republican lawmakers have blasted it, saying it infringes on states' rights.

Many Americans are now concerned that it had become "much easier for one man's home to become another man's castle," noted Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Congress has been working on legislation that would ban the use of federal funds for any project getting the go-ahead using the Kelo decision. Roberts said that was an "appropriate approach."

"What the court is saying is there is this power," he added. "That leaves the ball in the court of the legislature."

While I have been impressed with Roberts so far, I disagree with him on this. The ball is in the court of the legislature only because SCOTUS dropped it. While capitalism is a wonderful thing, the founding fathers clearly didn't envision a world where commercial developers had the upper hand over private land-owners. It was certainly within in the Supreme Court's authority to make that distinction.

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