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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I spoke with my friend Larry yesterday and the conversation turned, as it seems to inevitably do, to property rights and eminent domain (what, you don’t talk to your friends about governmental abrogation of private property?) I asked his thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London because he’s not only a very smart guy, he’s a property rights attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

So we’re talking about it, but he never mentions that’s he got a great op-ed about the subject out and available. I don’t know if he’s terribly modest or what, but I would think that I don’t need to read his legal opinions from a search engine. Geesh!

Long story short—I know, that ship has sailed—he thinks that Kelo’s bad but actually a somewhat heartening decision in that the last court decision on eminent domain was unanimous. Another guy said much the same thing today.

I’m glad that the decision wasn’t unanimous and I’m glad that it was deadlocked, but I still can’t get too excited about Kelo since it is the Supreme Court’s first peep since 1984. They did side with government over the individual—that’s bad, by the way—and it still does give local governments hope.

I know from my political science courses that 5-4 decisions are generally considered troublesome in giving other courts clear ideas of what the justices are thinking. It very well could be that this could signal the Court’s willingness to take on property rights cases and that future additions to the Court could make future cases 5-4 splits in our favor (or, dare I dream, a unanimous decision).

At any rate, Kelo has given increasing visibility to the Institute for Justice since they were the attorneys who brought it up to the Supreme Court. That can only be a good thing since it looks like they’ve got plenty of other excellent cases to run through Washington, D.C. if necessary.

[UPDATE: Crap, it’s already started being used as an excuse.]

[UPDATE 2: Phew, the Arizona Constitution has a pretty stringent definition of a private use for which a taking may occur. And the Institute for Justice prevailed here in a big way just two years ago. {via]

[UPDATE (6/28/05]): Logan Darrow Clements wants to build a hotel called The Lost Liberty Hotel by seizing Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s New Hampshire home through eminent domain. Clements, erstwhile California gubernatorial candidate, plans to raise funds from pro-liberty people if he can get the property seized. It reminds me of a wacko Objectivist—and I consider Clements to fit the bill—I knew who wanted to form a Satanic rock band and then play pro-freedom, pro-Objectivist songs once he got people to his concert. You don’t advance your principles or cause by actively subverting them. Ever. Even if it’s ironic or just desserts.]

[UPDATE (8/22/2005): The loony is, apparently, at it again. He’s now visited Souter’s Weare house, where he left a copy of Atlas Shrugged and a t-shirt. After reading more of his bio, I realized that I’ve met the man and actually sat next to him on a bus on the way to an Objectivist conference. I guess my first impression was right.]