Eminent Domain in Missouri:

Timothy Lee of the libertarian Show Me Institute think thank has written a compelling report on eminent domain abuse in Missouri. Lee notes that Missouri is one of a large number of states that passed ineffective "reform" laws in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision. As I discuss in this paper, the Missouri law is one of many that forbids the condemnation of private property in order to promote "economic development," but allows the same practice to continue under other names. In Missouri's case, this was accomplished by allowing the condemnation of "blighted" property under rules that permit virtually any area to be declared blighted if the local or state government want to get hold of the property.

I was also happy to see that Lee's report includes a discussion of the problems caused by blight condemnations in "truly" blighted areas; such takings are often used to displace poor residents in order to transfer the property to politically powerful interest groups. This issue has not gotten enough public attention in the post-Kelo debate over eminent domain. For my own thoughts on it, see my August 2006 article on the subject in the Legal Times, and the last section of my more detailed academic article on the post-Kelo debate over eminent domain.

UPDATE: Tim Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation also has some thoughts on the Lee study and Missouri eminent domain. I do disagree somewhat with Tim's statement that Missouri "probably has the worst laws on eminent domain in the country." There are many worthy contenders for this dubious honor. But my personal nominee would be New York - the state where, among many other abuses, property in Times Square could be condemned as blighted (see my Legal Times article linked above).

Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
AZ has some interesting constitutional restrictions in its Const. Art. II sec. 17. No property can be taken for private use (altho that may be a circular definition), with a few exceptions, the question of public use is to be determined without reference to any legislative claim that it is public, and property may not be "taken or damaged" for public or private use without compensation.
10.23.2007 8:10pm
Ilya Somin:
As discussed in my paper post-Kelo reform (linked in the post), Arizona has actually enacted a very strong post-Kelo law by referendum, one which is likely to end economic development takings in that state.
10.23.2007 8:12pm
Gideon Kanner (mail):
"Increasing the compensation awarded to property owners targeted for condemnation is another possible alternative to a ban. While this idea has some merit, it is almost impossible to accurately calculate the appropriate amount of compensation for subjective value."

The problem is not so much intangible values (though courts don't seem to have any trouble ascertaining those in non-condemnatiion cases), but the fact that condemnees are routinely denied compensation for conceded or incontestable economic losses, lost business goodwill or going concern value being the most obvious examples. Also lost rents. There are also some noncompensability rules in part-taking cases, notably involving impaired access to the remainder. To say nothing of lawyers' and experts' fees and other litigation expenses that have to come out of the award, thus assuring that the condemnee NEVER gets even the artificially, judicially limited "fair market value."

In contrast, total takings cost the condemnor nothing. Yes, nothing except for transactional costs. The condemnor exchanges one asset (money) for another asset (land at the latter's judicially determined fair market value which goes up after the taking, at least in redevelopment cases) so its balance sheet remains unchanged.
10.23.2007 10:43pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Yet again I'm glad people's bodies aren't real estate, and are protected by the Criminal and Civil legal code. You touch my land against my wishes and statements, it might be trespassing. You touch my body against my wishes and statements, it's battery at a minimum - in both the Criminal and Civil sense.
10.24.2007 12:26am