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Law School Case Brief

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

Rule:

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.

Facts:

After approving an integrated development plan designed to revitalize its ailing economy, the City of New London, Connecticut, through its development agent, purchased most of the property earmarked for the project from willing sellers. It then initiated condemnation proceedings when Susette Kelo and Wilhelmina Dery, the owners of the rest of the property, refused to sell. Kelo and Dery brought a state-court action claiming that the taking of their properties would violate the "public use" restriction in the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause. The trial court granted a permanent restraining order prohibiting the taking of the some of the properties but denying relief as to others. Relying on cases such as Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff and Berman v. Parker, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld all of the proposed takings.

Issue:

Should the proposed property takings by the City of New London, Connecticut be upheld?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court found that the development plan served a public purpose and therefore constituted a public use under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The plan was not adopted to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals. According to the Court, although the owners' properties were not blighted, the city's determination that a program of economic rejuvenation was justified was entitled to deference. There was no basis for exempting economic development from the broad definition of "public purpose." Hence, the Court upheld the decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

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