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Mountain States Legal Foundation to U.S. Supreme Court: "Time to Overturn Kelo"

Jul 13, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

 A Decision from the Louisiana Supreme Court Approving Anticompetitive Condemnations Provides the Perfect Opportunity to End Eminent Domain Abuse

DENVER, CO.  Mountain States Legal Foundation joined with the National Federation of Independent Business and other property rights groups across the country in an amici curiae brief asking the Supreme Court of the United States to reconsider its infamous 2005 decision in Kelo v. New London, which allows the government to take private property for “public use” as part of an “economic development plan” that condemns houses in low-income neighborhoods and turns them over to private corporations.  Since shipping ports are often operated by government entities, it is no surprise that one of them would eventually—under the Kelo rationale—utilize eminent domain to remove a private competitor.   

The amici curiae brief urges the Court to review the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in Violet Dock Port, Inc, LLC v. St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District, which approved the forcible transfer of private commercial property to eliminate competition with a public enterprise—and for the benefit of another private entity.  “The Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision demonstrates the perverse implications of the Supreme Court’s egregious decision in Kelo,” said Mountain States Legal Foundation Attorney Christian Corrigan.  “Just as Justices Thomas and O’Connor warned in their Kelo dissents, it encourages those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms, to victimize the weak.”

Violet Dock Port Inc., LLC has been profitably operating its dock for decades on the Mississippi River near New Orleans.  St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District, a local government entity that operates a public cargo port facility several miles upstream, wanted to expand its business but found the cost of building a new dock prohibitive.  Instead, St. Bernard hatched a scheme to acquire Violet’s port via eminent domain and lease the space to another private entity.  The plan was to use eminent domain to acquire Violet’s facility, improve it with a cargo facility, and then lease it to a private company called Associated Terminals, which was involved in the plan from the outset.  St. Bernard then planned to use the revenues from the lease to make future improvements to the port.  The Louisiana Supreme Court, relying on Kelo, upheld the taking based on the trial court’s determination that it constituted a “public use” because the expansion served a “public purpose.”

“There has never been a ruling by the Court that united the country in opposition as did Kelo,” said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation.  “From Rep. Maxine Waters (D – 43rd CA) on the left to Rush Limbaugh on the right, Americans were outraged by the harm done to their property rights.  It is time it be overturned.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information: Violet Dock Port Inc. LLC v. St. Bernard Port Harbor & Terminal District



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