Berliner Decries Eminent Domain Abuse
by Ari Armstrong, January 25, 2006
"If Ms. Kelo could lose her home because an office building might produce more taxes there, then anyone could lose their home," Dana Berliner warned at a January 23 legislative briefing at the state capitol. Berliner, who works for the Institute for Justice (IJ), defended homeowners in the case of Kelo v. New London, in which the Supreme Court allowed the taking of private property for "economic development."
Listen to the mp3 audio file that features Jon Caldara, Jessica Corry, Dana Berliner, and Allan Hale. The file includes major portions of the briefing. See below for additional pictures.
The briefing was organized by the Independence Institute, which has started a "Property Rights Project" to study issues such as eminent domain. Jessica Corry, who also spoke at the briefing, released a paper through the Institute reviewing eminent domain in Colorado.
Berliner argued that, even though the Colorado legislature has tweaked the process of eminent domain, "it still is possible under Colorado law to condemn for economic development." She said a Constitutional change is necessary to fully protect property owners.
Abuse of property rights through eminent domain is "deeply, morally wrong," Berliner said.
Allan Hale, an attorney who has represented property owners, described the state-wide initiative now being distributed that would limit eminent domain.
The issue has galvanized Coloradans who support property rights. Marsha Looper of Colorado Citizens for Property Rights (CCPR) attended the briefing. She noted that volunteers recently collected around 10,000 signatures for the initiative at the stock show. Looper was involved with the issue during last year's legislative session, and in August she helped to organize CCPR.
Several legislators have introduced bills to limit eminent domain, and a number of legislators attended the briefing. During September, legislators and CCPR discussed potential reforms for this year.
In October, Berliner's associate Clark Neily spoke at the University of Denver.
On March 4-5, Berliner will return to Colorado to speak at a conference sponsored by Front Range Objectivism on law, individual rights, and the judicial system. Lin Zinser, organizer of the conference, also attended the January 23 briefing.
In early 2004, citizens of Arvada opposed the condemnation of a lake for purposes of transferring the property to Wal-Mart.
The Kelo decision has also prompted reform efforts across the nation. Berliner said that some 40 states are considering limits on eminent domain. BB&T Corporation just announced that it "will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain."
John Allison, the company's CEO, said, "The idea that a citizen's property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact it's just plain wrong... One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won't help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership."
Thanks to the work of reformers like Berliner, Corry, Looper, and Hale, such defenses of property rights are increasingly common across the nation and here in the Centennial State.