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Law School Case Brief

Kelo v. City of New London - 545 U.S. 469, 125 S. Ct. 2655 (2005)


A city will no doubt be forbidden from taking petitioners' land for the purpose of conferring a private benefit on a particular private party. A purely private taking cannot withstand the scrutiny of the public use requirement; it serves no legitimate purpose of government and will thus be void. Nor will a city be allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit.


After approving an integrated development plan designed to revitalize its ailing economy, respondent City of New London, through its development agent, purchased most of the property in The Fort Trumbull area, earmarked for the project from willing sellers. The City of New London, however, initiated condemnation proceedings when the owners of the rest of the property, Petitioners Kelo refused to sell. Petitioners brought the present state-court action claiming that the taking of their properties would violate the "public use" restriction in the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The trial court granted a permanent restraining order prohibiting the taking of the some of the properties, but denying relief as to others. On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld all of the proposed takings.


Would the taking by condemnation of the properties owned by the City of New London violate the “public use” restriction in the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause?




On writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the city of New London’s development plan served a public purpose and therefore constituted a public use under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. According to the Court, the plan was not adopted to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals. Although the owners' properties were not blighted, the City's determination that a program of economic rejuvenation was entitled to deference. The Court ruled that there was no basis for exempting economic development from the broad definition of public purpose. The Court affirmed the judgment.

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