Washington Times: Somin on Constitutional Property Rights

In an op-ed in the Washington TimesProfessor Ilya Somin discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s treatment of property rights under the Constitution.


In recent years, the Court’s record on property rights has improved. In several decisions, it has gradually strengthened protection against uncompensated takings. It has also cracked down on practices under which landowners are sometimes forced to go through costly, byzantine administrative procedures before they can even raise a takings claim. Most recently, in its June decision in Horne v. Department of Agriculture, an 8-1 majority held that a taking has occurred when the government seizes large quantities of raisins from producers, in order to artificially inflate the market price of that commodity.

Even Kelo represents progress of a sort. Unlike previous rulings endorsing an ultrabroad definition of “public use,” which were unanimous, it was a close 5-4 decision. In the aftermath, there was widespread criticism of Kelo on both the right and the left. Such unlikely bedfellows as Rush Limbaugh and the NAACP denounced the decision, which generated a massive political backlash.

There is now growing recognition that judicial enforcement of constitutional property rights should be strengthened. But while the Court’s performance in this vital field has improved, there is still a long way to go before the right to private property can fully shed its “poor relation” status.

It’s Time To End The Poor Relation Status Of Constitutional Property Rights, Washington Times, July 29, 2015. By Ilya Somin.

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