Paul David Collins ©, Sept. 2nd, 2005

When a student is introduced to the subject of American political science, the three branches of the national government is one of the first topics explored. The student is taught that the judicial branch’s primary task is to interpret the law. It was for this purpose that the Supreme Court was created. In June of 2005, a Supreme Court ruling in Kelo versus New London, a case concerning the issue of eminent domain, drastically redefined the Court’s role in national politics. CNN’s Parija Bhatnagar reported the following concerning the Supreme Courts ruling:

The Supreme Court may have just delivered an early Christmas gift to the nation’s biggest retailers by its ruling Thursday allowing governments to take private land for business development.

Retailers such as Target, Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond have thus far managed to keep the “eminent domain” issue under the radar — and sidestep a prickly public relations problem — even as these companies continue to expand their footprint into more urban residential areas where prime retail space isn’t always easily found.

Eminent domain is a legal principle that allows the government to take private property for a “public use,” such as a school or roads and bridges, in exchange for just compensation.

Local governments have increasingly expanded the scope of public use to include commercial entities such as shopping malls or independent retail stores. Critics of the process maintain that local governments are too quick to invoke eminent domain on behalf of big retailers because of the potential for tax revenue generation and job creation.

The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday clarified that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses — even against their will — for private and public economic development. (No pagination)

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