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June 08, 2015 08:51 AM PDT

Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law, joins ConSource Executive Director Julie Silverbrook to discuss his new book "The Grasping Hand: 'Kelo v. City of New London' and the Limits of Eminent Domain."

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could condemn fifteen residential properties in order to transfer them to a new private owner. Although the Fifth Amendment only permits the taking of private property for "public use," the Court ruled that the transfer of condemned land to private parties for "economic development" is permitted by the Constitution - even if the government cannot prove that the expected development will ever actually happen.

In this detailed study of one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in modern times, Ilya Somin argues that Kelo was a grave error. Economic development and "blight" condemnations are unconstitutional under both originalist and most "living constitution" theories of legal interpretation. They also victimize the poor and the politically weak for the benefit of powerful interest groups, and often destroy more economic value than they create. Kelo itself exemplifies these patterns. The city's poorly conceived development plan ultimately failed: the condemned land lies empty to this day, occupied only by feral cats. Despite its outcome, the closely divided 5-4 ruling shattered what many believed to be a consensus that virtually any condemnation qualifies as a public use under the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court's unpopular ruling triggered an unprecedented political reaction, with forty-five states passing new laws intended to limit the use of eminent domain. But many of the new laws impose few or no genuine constraints on takings. The Kelo backlash led to significant progress, but not nearly as much as it may have seemed. With controversy over takings sure to continue, The Grasping Hand offers the first book-length analysis of Kelo by a legal scholar, alongside a broader history of the dispute over public use and eminent domain, and an evaluation of options for reform.

You can learn more about Professor Somin's book by exploring his posts on the Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy Blog, available at: http://wapo.st/1JzdYS3

On June 11, 2015, the Cato Institute will host a symposium on Property Rights on the 10th Anniversary of Kelo v. City of New London. Professor Somin will discuss his book at the event. You can register here: http://bit.ly/1F4eC2f

The book is available for purchase via Amazon: http://amzn.to/1HiT8Vo

October 10, 2014 12:31 PM PDT

John Bessler, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, joins ConSource Executive Director Julie Silverbrook to discuss his new book about Cesare Beccaria, "The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution."

The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution tells the forgotten, untold story of the origins of U.S. law. Before the Revolutionary War, a 26-year-old Italian thinker, Cesare Beccaria, published On Crimes and Punishments, a runaway bestseller that shaped the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and early American laws. America’s Founding Fathers, including early U.S. Presidents, avidly read Beccaria’s book—a product of the Italian Enlightenment that argued against tyranny and the death penalty. Beccaria’s book shaped American views on everything from free speech to republicanism, to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” to gun ownership and the founders’ understanding of “cruel and unusual punishments,” the famous phrase in the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. In opposing torture and infamy, Beccaria inspired America’s founders to jettison England’s Bloody Code, heavily reliant on executions and corporal punishments, and to adopt the penitentiary system.

Available for purchase at: http://www.cap-press.com/books/isbn/9781611636048/The-Birth-of-American-Law#

Read a short piece on Professor Bessler's book here (at pg. 34): http://issuu.com/ubaltlaw/docs/baltimore_law__fall_2014

May 15, 2014 10:55 AM PDT

Today we will be talking with Andrew Ferguson, Associate Professor of Law at UDC-David A. Clarke School of Law about the importance of jury duty. The jury once existed at the core of American constitutional identity. We discuss why this has changed and how we can reclaim the civic and constitutional identity of jury duty today.

April 24, 2014 09:42 AM PDT

Today we will be talking with Eric Segall, the Kathy and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law, about the relationship between greater access to the Court, its records and proceedings, and public understanding of the Court and its history. We’d like to note that ConSource takes no position with respect to cameras in the courtroom or greater Supreme Court transparency. We are simply hosting a conversation about this timely issue as it relates to preserving historical records and facilitating civic education.

April 17, 2014 07:38 AM PDT

Robert Tsai's gripping history of alternative constitutions invites readers into the circle of those who have rejected this ringing assertion--the defiant groups that refused to accept the Constitution's definition of who "the people" are and how their authority should be exercised.

America's Forgotten Constitutions is the story of America as told by dissenters: squatters, Native Americans, abolitionists, socialists, internationalists, and racial nationalists. Beginning in the nineteenth century, Tsai chronicles eight episodes in which discontented citizens took the extraordinary step of drafting a new constitution. He examines the alternative Americas envisioned by John Brown (who dreamed of a republic purged of slavery), Robert Barnwell Rhett (the Confederate "father of secession"), and Etienne Cabet (a French socialist who founded a utopian society in Illinois). Other dreamers include the University of Chicago academics who created a world constitution for the nuclear age; the Republic of New Afrika, which demanded a separate country carved from the Deep South; and the contemporary Aryan movement, which plans to liberate America from multiculturalism and feminism.

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