Somin in NY Times: Sotomayor and Property Rights

Commenting in The New York Times, Professor Ilya Somin was critical of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's 2006 ruling in Didden v. Village of Port Chester in which Sotomayor applied and extended Kelo to allow the taking of private property and its award to a private company for an identical use.

"This is the worst federal court takings decision since Kelo," said Somin, who helped write a 2006 brief unsuccessfully urging the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of Didden. "It's very extreme, and it is significant as a window into Judge Sotomayor's attitudes toward private property," he stated.

The ruling in Didden is unpopular among some property rights and constitutional law scholars, seven of whom joined Somin in his brief, and Sotomayor will most likely have to address criticism of Didden during her confirmation hearings in July. In an interview, property owner Bart Didden said he had been contacted by aides to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking information on Sotomayor's attitude toward property rights, a clear indication that the topic is of interest to them.

Issue of Property Rights is Likely to Arise in Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings, The New York Times, June 15, 2009. By Adam Liptak.

"The case arose from a meeting in 2003 between Mr. Didden, who owned property in Port Chester, N.Y., and an executive of a company that had been designated by the village to develop a 27-acre urban renewal area that included part of the property. What happened at that meeting, Mr. Didden said, amounted to extortion.

"Mr. Didden had made arrangements to put a CVS drug store on his lot. At the meeting, the executive, Gregg Wasser, demanded $800,000 as the price for permission to proceed with that project, Mr. Didden said in court papers. The alternative, Mr. Wasser said, according to the papers, was to have the village condemn Mr. Didden's property so that Mr. Wasser's company could put a Walgreen's in the same place.

'''Here is a private person standing in the shoes of the government with the power to condemn or not condemn,' Mr. Didden said. 'The $800,000 wasn't going to rehabilitate a public park or build a soccer stadium. It was going into his pocket.'

"Mr. Didden refused. The next day the village condemned his property."

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