In the annals of Supreme Court history, there are perhaps only a handful of cases that go down in history as more egregious than what happened in Suzette Kelo v. City of New London.
In that case, the Supreme Court approved an eminent domain taking by the City of New London, Connecticut that involved taking the land of the principal plaintiff, and many others, and using it for a commercial development that would be used by Pfizer Corp. for a new corporate business center. It was a decision that was roundly and deservedly condemned at the time and which led to some efforts at eminent domain reform at the state level, many of which were successful.
But, in the end, Suzette Kelo still lost her property, and now, to add insult to injury, Pfizer has abandoned the project that was the subject of the eminent domain proceeding:
The private homes New London, Conn., took through eminent domain from Suzette Kelo and others, are torn down now, but Pfizer has just announced that it closing up shop at the research facility that led to the condemnation.
Leading drugmakers Pfizer and Wyeth have merged, and as a result, are trimming some jobs. That includes axing the 1,400 jobs at their sparkling new research & development facility in New London, and moving some across the river to Groton.
To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost, as five justices said this redvelopment met the constitutional hurdle of “public use.”
The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.
But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes’ seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.
Scott Bullock, Kelo’s co-counsel in the case, told me: “This shows the folly of these redvelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain.”
One wonders if Suzette Kelo is paraphrasing former Labor Secretary Ray Donovan and wondering, where do I go to get my house back ?
And you know the worst part ? Not only did Suzette Kelo lose her house, but we’re stuck with an incredibly bad precedent that will likely take decade to reverse.