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The Ohio Supreme Court Gets It Right on Private Property Rights

It seems the Ohio Supreme Court has a better handle on private property rights than the US Supreme Court:

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that a Cincinnati suburb cannot take private property by eminent domain for a $125 million project of offices, shops and restaurants.

The case was the first challenge of property rights laws to reach a state high court since the
U.S. Supreme Court last summer allowed municipalities to seize homes for use by a private developer.

The case involves the city of Norwood, which used its power of eminent domain to seize properties holding out against private development in an area considered to be deteriorating.

The court found that economic development isn't a sufficient reason under the state constitution to justify taking homes.

In the ruling, Justice Maureen O'Connor said cities may consider economic benefits but that courts deciding such cases in the future must "apply heightened scrutiny" to assure private citizens' property rights.

"For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house," she wrote. "It is the taking of a home -- the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made,"

Targeting property because it is in a deteriorating area also is unconstitutional because the term is too vague and requires speculation, the court found.

O'Connor wrote that the court attempted in its decision to balance "two competing interests of great import in American democracy: the individual's rights in the possession and security of property, and the sovereign's power to take private property for the benefit of the community."

This is exceptionally good news for Ohio property owners. Read a copy of the preliminary decision here (.pdf file). More on the decision here.


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Comments (7)

Ms. Priestap,Real ... (Below threshold)
Red Fog:

Ms. Priestap,

Real estate rights may be boring news but it is the base fabric of a strong democracy. Allowing developers to influence local politicians to apply eminent domain for 'private gain' rather than 'public good' is akin to class action lawyers raking in billions with no public good accomplished. No developer should ever be allowed to take my home for his personal gain. Duh?! Ohio has its eye on the ball. Thanks for highlighting it.

Kim,I second Red Fog... (Below threshold)

I second Red Fog's sentiments. Thank you for the post.

As an Ohioan, I'm glad we h... (Below threshold)

As an Ohioan, I'm glad we have justices on our Supreme Court we can be proud of. Maureen O'Conner is a former Lt. Governer of Ohio (R)(1999 - 2003) and a great addition (since 2002) to our highest court. Ms Priestap wrote a very nice overview of a terrible land-grab situation in Southwest Ohio (Conservative country that won the 2004 election for President Bush); and Red Fog added good comments. Land & home ownership is the foundation of our freedoms. Democracy is worthless without property rights; capitalism won't work without it. Any country that does not allow full property rights forever dooms their citizens to poverty. Basically, when only government owns real estate the land is worthless. Without the ability to buy/sell/borrow against land for business or homes, there can be no middle class nor capitalism. Of course, government control of property is the desire of socialists and we should all be aware of their attempts to achieve that goal!

Nice job Ohio, and great se... (Below threshold)

Nice job Ohio, and great sentiments Red Fog!!

Question: Isn't this ruling... (Below threshold)

Question: Isn't this ruling impossible, given the heirarchy in the court? Isn't this a lower court overturning a higher court ruling? I thought that wasn't allowed.

Pat, that's actually a good... (Below threshold)

Pat, that's actually a good question, and I guess the answer involves Ohio's specific Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. I'm pretty sure Ohio has the right to further define property rights as long as it doesn't contradict the U.S. Constitution (which this ruling is not doing).

Yes, it's a matter of Ohio ... (Below threshold)

Yes, it's a matter of Ohio law.

Federal courts can set the standard, but states are always free to enact MORE protections for citizens than those minimally mandated by the Constitution. For instance, many states have more explicit laws guaranteeing citizens more rights of speech, religious practice, gun rights, and others than the Constitution requires. The state may always exceed the level of protection; it must only never offer less.






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