Facts: In 2000, the city of New London, previously declared a “distressed municipality”
approved a development plan that was “projected to create in excess of 1,000 jobs, to
increase tax and other revenues, and to revitalize an economically distressed city,
including its downtown and waterfront areas.” The city seized and purchased land from
both willing and unwilling owners in exchange for just compensation. The trial court
upheld the takings. The dissenting judges agreed that the plan was intended to serve a
valid public use, but they would have found the all the takings unconstitutional because
the City failed to adduce “clear and convincing evidence” that economic benefits of the
plan would in fact come to pass.
Issue: Was the city’s proposed disposition of their property qualifies as a “public use”
within the meaning of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
Holding: Affirmed
Rationale:
– the statute expresses a legislative determination that the taking of land, even
developed land, as part of an economic developlent project is a “public use” in the
“public interest”
– It has long been accept that the sovereign may not take the property of A for the
sole purpose of transferring it to another private party B, even though A is paid
just compensation. ON the other hand, it is equally clear that a State may transfer
property from one private party to another if future “use by the public” is the
purpose of the taking; the condemnation of land for a railroad with common
carrier duties is a familiar example…neither is the case here
– The City would no doubt be forbidden from taking P’s land for the purpose of
conferring a private benefit on a particular private party. Nor would the City be
allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when its
actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit. Here however, the takings were
executed based on a “carefully considered” development plan. There was no
evidence of an illegitimate purpose. Therefore, the City’s development plan was
not adopted “to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals.”
– This is also not the case where the City is planning to open the condemned land to
use of the general public. Nor will any private lessees be required to operate the
land like common carriers, making their services available to all comers. The
court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put
into use for the general public.” The narrow view of “use by the public” has
eroded over time, and this test is very hard to administer. The Court now
embraces the “public purpose’ interpretation of public use.
– To determine public purpose, the Court has defined that concept broadly as in
Berman and Midkiff. In Rusckelshaus, the Court dealt with provisions of the
Federal Insecticide Act under which the EPA could consider the data and trade
secrets submitted by pesticide applicants so long as just compensation was paid.
The Court acknowledged that the “most direct beneficiaries” of the provisions
were subsequent applicants, but the statute was upheld despite the fact that the
public use arose in a purely economic context. Congress believed to do this
would save time and increase competition.
– The City has carefully formulated an economic plan and believes the benefits will
include new jobs and increased tax revenue.
– Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of
government.
– The gov’ts pursuit of a public purpose will often tend to benefit individual private
parties. We cannot say that public ownership is the sole method of promoting the
public purposes of community redevelopment projects
– The A to B idea is not presented here, this is a part of an integrated development
plan. The issue P speaks of will not be addressed until such a situation arises.
– When a legislature’s purpose is legitimate and not irrational, there is no problem
with their statutory decisions regarding takings. There is no need for a
“reasonable certainty” rule.
– There is nothing stopping the State from placing further restrictions on its exercise
of the takings power. States may adopt a requirement stricter than the federal
baseline.