Lost Liberty Hotel Has Lost — Update on Eminent Domain from John Fund

The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund (sr)gives us this update today:

Justice Won’t Be a Regular at Motel 6
Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s home has been saved from possible
condemnation by his neighbors in Weare, N.H. Some locals and a few
well-heeled outsiders were furious that he formed part of the 5-4
majority in last year’s infamous Kelo decision. Because that ruling
effectively expanded the rights of governments to seize property for
private use through eminent domain, Kelo critics launched a campaign to
seize the farmhouse that serves as Mr. Souter’s local home and replace
it with a hotel that would bring in more property-tax revenue.
Yesterday, residents of Weare voted by 1,167 to 493, a 70% majority, in
favor of a measure that asked local officials not to use their power of
eminent domain to seize Justice Souter’s home and instead urge the state
legislature to pass a law forbidding Kelo-type seizures. All in all, a
sensible measure although the irony that voters had to pass such a
proposal was not lost on Logan Darrow Clements, the Los Angeles
businessman who came up with the idea of building the “Lost Liberty
Hotel” on Mr. Souter’s property. “The vote makes Souter the only person
in the United States with special protection against his own ruling,” he
told reporters.
But efforts to afford other Americans that same protection are
proceeding smartly at the federal, state and local level, led by the
Institute for Justice’s “Castle Coalition.” The U.S. House has passed a
bill to bar federal funds from being used to make improvements on any
lands seized for private development. One of its key supporters is
liberal Democrat John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary
Committee. He notes that the NAACP, Operation PUSH and the Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights all believe that “this court opinion makes it
too easy for private property to be taken,” a practice that has been
“used historically to target the poor, people of color and the elderly.”
One person who felt herself targeted was Wilhelmina Dery, an 88-year-old
resident of the New London, Conn. neighborhood that was at the center of
the Kelo decision. The city had teamed up with the drug company Pfizer
to promote building a modern “urban village” in Ms. Dery’s neighborhood,
which would have forced her out of the home in which she had been born
in 1918. Ms. Dery and her neighbors may have lost their Supreme Court
battle, but they appear to have won the war. In the wake of the Kelo
uproar, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell has promoted an alternative that
would create an “enclave” to protect all 15 homes while the Pfizer
project is built around it.
Unfortunately, Ms. Dery did not live to see it. She died quietly at home
last Sunday after a long illness. “She was a wonderful lady and I’m glad
we were able to grant her final wish,” Scott Bullock, an attorney for
the Institute for Justice, told an audience at a Smith Family Foundation
eminent domain debate last night here in New York. “Her courage in
taking on New London in an effort to save her home will be remembered by
many of the more than 10,000 other families and businesses who face
eminent domain proceedings every year in the United States.”

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