Somin in WSJ: Defining Blight in Eminent Domain Seizures

States' definitions of "blighted" properties often are so broad as to enable "virtually any property to be condemned," says Professor Ilya Somin in a Wall Street Journal article dealing with property rights after the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London.

In the 2005 Kelo ruling, the Supreme Court expanded the concept of condemnation of private property to allow takings for the purpose of promoting economic develop. Since that time, states have struggled with the backlash of the decision, with over 40 states having passed laws designed to limit governmental ability to seize private property. Among the key issues is the definition of "blight," with some cities having designated large areas as "blighted," despite the presence of well-maintained properties within the same boundaries.

There Goes the Neighborhood: A Fight Over Defining "Blight," The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2009. By Nathan Koppel.

"Shortly after the Kelo ruling came down, Texas passed legislation designed to limit the sort of seizures authorized by Kelo, but carved out an exception for blight. But some Texas lawmakers are wondering whether to go further, and have introduced legislation that would require blight determinations to be made on a property-by-property basis. As it stands, lawyers say, many cities can designate wide areas as blighted, which gives states the right to exercise eminent domain over all buildings in those areas, even well-maintained structures.

"Marvin Rosenbaum, whose family runs a bus company in El Paso, supports the proposed Texas measure. In 2006, he says, he learned that one of his company's bus terminals was in a broad swath of downtown El Paso that was declared blighted, as part of the city's effort to revitalize the area with condominiums, hotels and stores. 'We aren't blighted at all,' Mr. Rosenbaum says. 'Blight should be determined parcel by parcel so that you don't suffer due to the neglect of others.'"

Read the article