Facts: Hawaii enacted a Land Reform Act because over 42% of land on its main island
were owned between 72 landowners
Holding: Reversed. The Land Reform Act allows for government seizure of legitimate
public interests, the break up on land oligopolies is such a legitimate interest.
– The Court has repeatedly stated that “one person’s property may not be taken for
the benefit of another private person without a justifying public purpose. But,
where the exercise of the eminent domain power is rationally related to a
conceivable public purpose, the Court has never held a compensated taking to be
proscribed by the Public Use Clause
– The people of Hawaii have attempted to reduce the perceived social and economic
evils of a land oligopoly traceable to their monarchs, this oligopoly has created
artificial deterrents to the normal functioning of the State’s residential land market
and has forced thousands of individual homeowners to lease, rather than buy, the
land underneath their homes. Regulating oligopoly and the evils associated with
it is a classic exercise of a State’s police powers
– Nor are the Act’s approaches irrational with regard to a land oligopoly problem.
The Act presumes that when a sufficiently large number of persons declare that
they are willing but unable to buy lots at fair prices the land market is
malfunctioning. When that malfunction is signaled, the Act authorizes HHA to
condemn lots, the Act ensures that the market dilution goals will be achieved.
This is comprehensive and rational. The Act need not be successful in achieve its
intended goals so long as the legislature rationally could have believed the Act
would promote its objective.
– The mere fact that property taken outright by eminent domain is transferred is the
first instance to private beneficiaries does not condemn that taking as having only
a private purpose. The Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that
condemned property be put into use for the general public: “It is not essential that
the entire community, nor even any considerable portion…directly enjoy or
participate in any improvement in order [for it] to constitute a public use
– The government does not itself have to use property to legitimate the taking; it is
only the taking’s purpose, and not its mechanics, that must pass scrutiny under the
Public Use Clause.
– Because legislative deference is given, it is not relevant whether it was the state or
federal legislature that introduced the law
– A purely private taking could not withstand the scrutiny of the public use
requirement; it would serve no legitimate purpose of government and would thus
be void. But this is not the case. Hawaii enact its Land Reform Act not to benefit
a particular class of identifiable individuals but to attack a certain perceived evils
of concentrated property ownership in Hawaii—a legitimate public interest.
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