Ask virtually anyone with a legal background and they will tell you that one of the most important cases in modern-day eminent domain jurisprudence is Kelo v. New London, which was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States back in 2005.
While an examination of the entire case is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, SCOTUS essentially declared that the Fifth Amendment's "taking clause" -- specifically its "public use" provision -- allowed the power of eminent domain to be used for the purpose of economic development provided there was some sort of public benefit to be derived.
The opinion went on to state, however, that the decision reached did not serve to limit the individual states "from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power."
In the aftermath of this controversial decision, 42 states decided to take up SCOTUS' invitation and passed measures designed to limit the eminent domain power for the purposes of economic development.
Here in Florida, lawmakers reacted rather decisively to the Kelo decision, passing House Bill 1567 in 2006.
The legislation, introduced by current presidential candidate and former state representative Marco Rubio, called for the following:
- Establishment of a 10-year waiting period in those situations where eminent domain is used to take land from one private owner and transfer it to another; this lengthy waiting period all but eliminating those scenarios in which condemnation is used as a means to facilitate private commercial development.
- Prohibition against the use of eminent domain to eradicate blight.
While House Bill 1567 was eventually passed and signed into law, this wasn't the end of Florida's attempt to curb the use of eminent domain for economic development.
Indeed, a constitutional amendment put on the November 2006 ballot calling for a three-fifths majority in each legislative chamber in order to grant any exceptions to the state's general ban on using eminent domain for private purposes passed by a considerable margin.
We'll take a closer look at some of the post-Kelo measures taken by other states in future posts.