The NFIB Legal Center has taken-up the fight to curb eminent domain abuse in America. You may recall that last year we asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Kelo v. New London. Unfortunately, the Court balked. So our fight against eminent domain abuse continues.
Recently we joined with Pacific Legal Foundation, the Institute for Justice and George Mason Law School Professor Ilya Somin in asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to enforce constitutional limitations on the exercise of eminent domain.
One of the key issues in eminent domain cases is the question of when a property may be designated as “blighted.” This is because most states require a “blight” designation before private property may be taken through eminent domain. In New Jersey, such a finding is constitutionally required. And, a few months ago, a New Jersey Court of Appeal handed down a very good opinion rejecting a municipality’s argument that courts should blindly defer to the City’s bare assertions that a targeted property (a commercial parking lot) was blighted.
Instead the court held that the municipality bears the burden to satisfy a “heightened standard” for finding a property to be blighted. In other words the court refused to rubber-stamp the city’s blight designation, and imposed the burden on the City to support a blight designation with “more than a bland recitation of applicable statutory criteria and a declaration that those are met.”
Now the City has asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to reverse the decision—a result that would enable City’s to essentially label almost any conceivable property as “blighted” without any real judicial review. Accordingly, we filed an amicus arguing that the Constitution requires the City to prove that a condemned property is actually blighted. It is not enough for the City to simply declare your property blights because—if that was the case—the blight requirement would be entirely meaningless.
For more commentary, check out Jonathan Wood’s posting on the PLF Liberty Blog.