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Thursday, August 20, 2009

A frontal assault on the First Amendment

The Supreme Court's horrendous decision in the Kelo case, which upheld the abuse of eminent domain to boost local property tax revenues, has now spawned a full frontal assault on the First Amendment, as a Texas developer is trying to block publication of a book critical of his efforts to seize someone else's property. George Will tells us about a case that should be bounced out of court as soon as possible.
The book arises from an abuse of the power of eminent domain by the city of Freeport, Tex., but the story really begins in Connecticut. There, in 2000, New London's city government condemned the property of middle-class homeowners in an unblighted neighborhood for the purpose of getting the property into the hands of commercial interests that would pay more taxes. In 2005, in Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, 5 to 4, New London's rapaciousness as a constitutional taking of property for what the Fifth Amendment calls a "public use." Rapacious people around the country salivated.

When Kelo was decided, H. Walker Royall, a Dallas developer, already had designs on some property that for more than a decade has belonged to the Gore family shrimping business in coastal Freeport. In 2003, Royall signed an agreement with that city's government to build a yacht marina, hotel and condominiums using property the city would seize by eminent domain.

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