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Chuck DeVore- Contributor

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore represents 450,000 residents of Orange County California’s 70th Assembly District.. He served as a Reagan White House appointee in the Pentagon from 1986 to 1988 and was Senior Assistant to Cong. Chris Cox. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. Chuck’s novel, CHINA ATTACKS, sells internationally and has been translated into Chinese for sales in Taiwan. [go to DeVore index]

Property and the Imperial Judiciary
Judges give more power to government...
[Chuck DeVore] 6/27/05

After Thursday’s 5-to-4 United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut (with the soon-to-retire Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices O’Connor, Scalia and Thomas in dissent), no one’s property is safe.

What the Supreme Court did, in the words of Justice O’Connor, was to hang “the specter of condemnation” over all property. She wrote, “Nothing 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.” She added, “Who among us can say she already makes the most productive or attractive use of her property?”

The issue the Supreme Court grappled with has to do with the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment. The 5th Amendment closes with the phrase, “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Public use has always been thought to be for cases when a government uses its powers to take private land to build a road or dam.

Sadly, the liberal majority of the court decided that public use was more broadly defined as “public purpose.” The public purpose definition allows private property to be taken from one private party and be given to another to enhance economic development. For example, when a city or redevelopment agency decides to condemn a church so as to erect a big box store in its stead to generate more sales tax revenue – land is condemned and taken from one private owner so that another private party can make better use of it.

In criticizing the majority for dumping the Constitutional principle of individual property rights Justice O’Connor warned that the liberals on the court were handing “disproportionate influence and power” to the powerful and rich.

What can we do? First we need to strengthen state protections against the abuse of eminent domain. A good place to start would be to support the proposal by state Senator Tom McClintock to amend the California Constitution to restore the original meaning of private property rights.

Based on my reading of our California Constitution, this may be fairly simple as the right to acquire, possess and protect property is mentioned in our state Constitution’s second paragraph! (See below – these words are themselves a modification of the preamble to The Declaration of Independence.)


We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.


SECTION 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. tRO

copyright 2005 Chuck DeVore




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