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Senate grills Judge Sotomayor on controversial property rights legislation.

During the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, both the controversial Supreme Court 2005 ruling reached in Kelo v. City of New London Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)[1], was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development.  and Sotomayor's own ruling in the controversial Didden v. Village of Port Chester came up.

In a 5-4 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and eminent domain eminent domain, the right of a government to force the owner of private property sell it if it is needed for a public use. The right is based on the doctrine that a sovereign state has dominion over all lands and buildings within its borders, which has its origins in  for local government to seize private property for private economic development. In response to Kohl's asking what an appropriate "public use" for condemning private property is, Sotomayor incorrectly claimed that Kelo upheld a taking in an economically blighted area. "Kelo is now a precedent of the court. I must follow it. I am bound by a Supreme Court decision as a Second Circuit judge. ... [T]he court held that a taking to develop an economically blighted area was appropriate," Sotomayor asserted.

However, there were no allegations of blight in Kelo. As Justice John Paul Stevens John Paul Stevens (born April 20, 1920) is currently the most senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He joined the Court in 1975 and is the oldest and longest serving incumbent member of the Court.  noted in his opinion on Kelo, "There is no allegation that any of these properties [that were condemned] is blighted or otherwise in poor condition." Although the court held that the government can condemn a person's property and transfer it to someone else in order to promote economic development, many people were alarmed about the consequences of this landmark ruling. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Sandra Day O'Connor (born March 26 1930) is an American jurist who served as the first female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1981 to 2006. She was considered a strict constructionist.  wrote at the time, "[N]othing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory."


Under questioning by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Sotomayor also defended her ruling in the controversial Didden v. Village of Port Chester. In Didden, Sotomayor's federal appellate-court panel upheld the government's condemnation of property after the owners refused to pay a private developer. The plaintiffs challenged the condemnation on the ground that it was not for a public use, as the Constitution's Fifth Amendment requires. However, Sotomayor's panel upheld the condemnation and denied Didden a court appearance. In that decision, Sotomayor's court ruled on the statute of limitations A type of federal or state law that restricts the time within which legal proceedings may be brought.

Statutes of limitations, which date back to early Roman Law, are a fundamental part of European and U.S. law.
, taking into account that the developer had rights under a contract with the state and Didden had rights under the Fifth Amendment, but did not bring them in a timely enough manner so as to avoid the conflict.

For the complete transcript, visit The Kelo passages are on pages 15-16 and Didden on pages 31-34.
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Title Annotation:Industry Headlines
Publication:Valuation Insights & Perspectives
Date:Jun 22, 2009
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