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U.S. House passes bill on Eminent Domain

Posted by Katherine L. Taylor, Attorney | Mar 06, 2012 | 0 Comments

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that local government could take over private property of several homeowners for the purpose of converting the property commercial use. The case was unique in that eminent domain had traditionally been used for public works projects - such as highways or public facilities. The Court held that "The city's determination that the area at issue was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to deference"; essentially, local governments were best suited to determine what public use was locally under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. Kelo drew much backfire, and in response many state governments enacted laws limiting eminent domains takings to very specific uses.

On February 28, 2012, the US House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to limit the Kelo ruling. The bill, H.R. 1433 (known as the Private Property Rights Protection Act) is co-sponsored by James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and Maxine Waters, D-California. According to the Washington Post, the

"legislation would withhold for two years all federal development aid to states or locales that take private property for economic development. It also bars the federal government from using eminent domain for economic development purposes and gives private property owners the right to take legal action if provisions of the legislation are violated."

The Private Property Rights Protection Act was opposed by John Conyers, D-Michigan, who was concerned that the bill exempted the Keystone XL pipeline from the eminent domain restrictions. The Keystone XL pipeline is a project by a Canadian company which proposes to build a gas pipeline from Canada to Texas. Additionally, Rep. Conyers noted that over 40 states have already enacted legislation in response to Kelo.

It is interesting to note that the property in question in Kelo was taken initially for Pfizer to develop a new location. In 2009, Pfizer abandoned the plans. For more information, see this CBS news article from November, 2009.

About the Author

Katherine L. Taylor, Attorney

Katherine founded Taylor Legal after serving for 10 years as Senior Assistant County Solicitor for Howard County Government, and 7 years as a commercial litigator at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, a premier law firm in Baltimore, Maryland.

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