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Constitution Book Review: The Grasping Hand: 'Kelo v. City of New L...
Time-length-icon 26m 0s
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Publish-date-icon June 8, 2015
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EPISODE DESCRIPTION

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

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