NEW ORLEANS — A war against eminent domain abuse is currently being waged in Louisiana.
Abuse of eminent domain is common in all 50 states across America, with one of the worst cases occurring in the state of Connecticut when 115 homes and private properties were taken under eminent domain in the city of New London in the name of economic development.
It is this case (Kelo v. City of New London, which was decided in 2005) that one attorney is hoping to use in his fight to prevent eminent domain from striking a business in Louisiana. Brian T. Hodges, the managing attorney for the Northwest Center of the Pacific Legal Foundation, is planning to challenge the Louisiana Supreme Court in the matter of St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District v. Violet Dock Port Inc. LLC, due to the lower courts in the state ruling against Violet Dock Port.
“We are hoping that [the Louisiana Supreme Court] will take this case up,” Hodges told the Louisiana Record. The Pacific Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief asking the state Supreme Court to consider the New London example in the Violet Dock Port case.
Due to potential impact of eminent domain, there are two restrictions that the founding fathers of the United States placed upon it in order to protect the people from abuses. The first restriction was that any property taken under eminent domain must only be taken under a “public use requirement." The second was that anyone who loses their property to eminent domain must be paid appropriate compensation for the property that was lost.
However, the reason there is a problem with abuse of eminent domain is that the restrictions, especially the public use requirement, are not being honored. One such abuse is the “economic development rationale," in which a private business will persuade the courts and government to declare eminent domain in a property that the business wants for itself. This was the example with the Violet Dock Port in Louisiana, which is currently in eminent domain in the name of economic development rationale.
“[Economic development rationale] is a private use of eminent domain and therefore violates the Constitution,” Hodges said.
According to Hodges, private businesses use the economic development rationale as a loophole in order to get the government and courts to invoke eminent domain. Often, a business attempting to take over a smaller business will look to use eminent domain, something Hodges finds disconcerting. Hodges says this practice not only impacts smaller businesses but the public at large as people lose their homes to eminent domain.
“It winds up being a burden on the very people the Constitution is supposed to protect,” Hodges said.