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Wednesday, July 26, 2006 

Ohio Restricts Eminent Domain Use

Jonathan Adler at Volokh highlights this opinion from the Ohio State Supreme Court. There is some local news coverage here. The article states...
In moving to halt the taking of private homes by the city of Norwood to make way for a residential and commercial development, the court ruled that while economic factors may be considered in determining whether governments can take private property, the economic benefit to the government and community cannot be the sole reason for the seizure.

The court also voided use of the term "deteriorating area" as the standard for appropriating private property, saying it was overly vague and speculative about the future condition of the property targeted for seizure.
This case is fairly similar to the federal Supreme Court Kelo case. However, since it was a state case, it was decided under the Ohio state Constitution. That's why the two decisions can conflict. As the Ohio opinion states, the Court did say that the state courts and legislatures could restrict these kinds of takings.

Here is what Adler has to say about the decision...
Based upon a quick read of the opinion, this seems to be quite a resounding victory for opponents of eminent domain. It also seems to me that this opinion relies upon (or at least cites to) academic commentary far more extensively than the typical Ohio Supreme Court opinion. Indeed, it is not every day that one sees an opinion issued by any court that cites both Richard Epstein and Edith Wharton!
Quoting from Epstein's 1985 Takings work is a definite sign that the court would rule in favor of the landowner. Gotta love those Lockean property rights.

EDIT: Fellow Volokh blogger Ilya Somin shares his thoughts on the decision as well. In the past, he has assisted the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public interest law firm that has been fighting these eminent domain abuses. He states...
It is probably the most important judicial decision on eminent domain since Kelo v. City of New London. Perhaps the most significant element of the decision is the fact that the Court went beyond banning "economic development" condemnations of the sort permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Kelo, and also suggested that there are state constitutional limitations on the governments' power to condemn property that is designated as "blighted."
It's interesting to watch the Kelo backlash continue.

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